The evolution of the Calvin cycle from prokaryotic to eukaryotic chromosomes: a case study of functional redundancy in ancient pathways through endosymbiosis

Curr Genet. 1997 Jul;32(1):1-18. doi: 10.1007/s002940050241.


The evolutionary histories of the 12 enzymes that catalyze the reactions of the Calvin cycle in higher-plant chloroplasts are summarized. They are shown to be encoded by a mixture of nuclear genes of cyanobacterial and proteobacterial origin. Moreover, where cytosolic isoforms of these enzymes are found they are almost invariably encoded by genes of clearly endosymbiont origin. We infer that endosymbiosis resulted in functional redundancy that was eliminated through differential gene loss, with intruding eubacterial genes repeatedly replacing pre-existing nuclear counterparts to which they were either functionally or structurally homologous. Our findings fail to support the 'product-specificity corollary', which predicts re-targeting of nuclear-encoded gene products to the organelle from whose genome they originated. Rather it would appear that the enzymes of central carbohydrate metabolism have evolved novel targeting possibilities regardless of their origins. Our findings suggest a new hypothesis to explain organelle genome persistence, based on the testable idea that some organelle-encoded gene products might be toxic when present in the cytosol or other inappropriate cellular compartments.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Chloroplasts / enzymology*
  • Genes, Plant
  • Photosynthesis / genetics*
  • Plants / enzymology
  • Symbiosis / physiology*