Zombie ideas about early endosymbiosis: Which entry mechanisms gave us the "endo" in different endosymbionts?

Bioessays. 2021 Jul;43(7):e2100069. doi: 10.1002/bies.202100069. Epub 2021 May 19.


Recently, a review regarding the mechanics and evolution of mitochondrial fission appeared in Nature. Surprisingly, it stated authoritatively that the mitochondrial outer membrane, in contrast with the inner membrane of bacterial descent, was acquired from the host, presumably during uptake. However, it has been known for quite some time that this membrane was also derived from the Gram-negative, alpha-proteobacterium related precursor of present-day mitochondria. The zombie idea of the host membrane still surrounding the endosymbiont is not only wrong, but more importantly, might hamper the proper conception of possible scenarios of eukaryogenesis. Why? Because it steers the imagination not only with regard to possible uptake mechanisms, but also regarding what went on before. Here I critically discuss both the evidence for the continuity of the bacterial outer membrane, the reasons for the persistence of the erroneous host membrane hypothesis and the wider implications of these misconceptions for the ideas regarding events occurring during the first steps towards the evolution of the eukaryotes and later major eukaryotic differentiations. I will also highlight some of the latest insights regarding different instances of endosymbiont evolution.

Keywords: endosymbiont; eukaryogenesis; membrane replacement; serial endosymbiosis; symbiogenesis.