A common evolutionary origin for mitochondria and hydrogenosomes

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Sep 3;93(18):9651-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.93.18.9651.


Trichomonads are among the earliest eukaryotes to diverge from the main line of eukaryotic descent. Keeping with their ancient nature, these facultative anaerobic protists lack two "hallmark" organelles found in most eukaryotes: mitochondria and peroxisomes. Trichomonads do, however, contain an unusual organelle involved in carbohydrate metabolism called the hydrogenosome. Like mitochondria, hydrogenosomes are double-membrane bounded organelles that produce ATP using pyruvate as the primary substrate. Hydrogenosomes are, however, markedly different from mitochondria as they lack DNA, cytochromes and the citric acid cycle. Instead, they contain enzymes typically found in anaerobic bacteria and are capable of producing molecular hydrogen. We show here that hydrogenosomes contain heat shock proteins, Hsp70, Hsp60, and Hsp10, with signature sequences that are conserved only in mitochondrial and alpha-Gram-negative purple bacterial Hsps. Biochemical analysis of hydrogenosomal Hsp60 shows that the mature protein isolated from the organelle lacks a short, N-terminal sequence, similar to that observed for most nuclear-encoded mitochondrial matrix proteins. Moreover, phylogenetic analyses of hydrogenosomal Hsp70, Hsp60, and Hsp10 show that these proteins branch within a monophyletic group composed exclusively of mitochondrial homologues. These data establish that mitochondria and hydrogenosomes have a common eubacterial ancestor and imply that the earliest-branching eukaryotes contained the endosymbiont that gave rise to mitochondria in higher eukaryotes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Chaperonin 10 / analysis
  • Chaperonin 60 / analysis
  • Conserved Sequence
  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins / analysis
  • Hydrogen
  • Mitochondria* / chemistry
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Organelles* / chemistry
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Trichomonas* / chemistry


  • Chaperonin 10
  • Chaperonin 60
  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Hydrogen

Associated data

  • GENBANK/U26965
  • GENBANK/U26966
  • GENBANK/U27231
  • GENBANK/U27232