Journal of Plant Research

, Volume 118, Issue 4, pp 247–255 | Cite as

A new scenario of plastid evolution: plastid primary endosymbiosis before the divergence of the “Plantae,” emended

Current Topics in Plant Research


A recent hypothesis on the origin of eukaryotic phototrophs proposes that red algae, green plants (land plants plus green algae), and glaucophytes constitute the primary photosynthetic eukaryotes, whose plastids may have originated directly from a cyanobacterium-like prokaryote via primary endosymbiosis, whereas the plastids of other lineages of eukaryotic phototrophs appear to be the result of secondary endosymbiotic events involving a phototrophic eukaryote and a host cell. However, the phylogenetic relationships among the three lineages of primary photosynthetic eukaryotes remained unresolved because previous nuclear multigene phylogenies used incomplete red algal gene sequences derived mainly from Porphyra (Rhodophyceae, one of the two lineages of the Rhodophyta), and lacked sequences from the Cyanidiophyceae (the other red algal lineage). Recently, the complete nuclear genome sequences from the red alga Cyanidioschyzon merolae 10D of the Cyanidiophyceae were determined. Using this genomic information, nuclear multigene phylogenetic analyses of various lineages of mitochondrion-containing eukaryotes were conducted. Since bacterial and amitochondrial eukaryotic genes present serious problems to eukaryotic phylogenies, basal eukaryotes were deduced based on the paralogous comparison of the concatenated α- and β-tubulin. The comparison demonstrated that cellular slime molds (Amoebozoa) represent the most basal position within the mitochondrion-containing organisms. With the cellular slime molds as the outgroup, phylogenetic analyses based on a 1,525-amino acid sequence of four concatenated nuclear genes [actin, elongation factor-1α( EF-1α), α-tubulin, and β-tubulin] resolved the presence of two large, robust monophyletic groups and the basal eukaryotic lineages (Amoebozoa). One of the two groups corresponded to the Opisthokonta (Metazoa and Fungi), whereas the other included various lineages containing primary and secondary plastids (red algae, green plants, glaucophytes, euglenoids, heterokonts, and apicomplexans), Ciliophora, Kinetoplastida, dinoflagellates, and Heterolobosea, for which the red algae represented the most basal lineage. Therefore, the plastid primary endosymbiosis likely occurred once in the common ancestor of the latter group, and the primary plastids were subsequently lost in the ancestor(s) of organisms within the group that now lacks primary plastids. A new concept of Plantae was proposed for phototrophic and nonphototrophic organisms belonging to this group on the basis of their common history of plastid primary endosymbiosis. This new scenario of plastid evolution is discussed here, and is compared with recent genome information and findings on the secondary endosymbiosis of the Euglena plastid.


Eukaryotes Evolution Outgroup Plantae Plastid primary endosymbiosis Red algae 



I am grateful to Professor T. Cavalier-Smith (University of Oxford, UK) and Mr. T. Nakada (University of Tokyo, Japan) for their kind comments and discussion on the plastid evolution. This work was supported by Grant-in-Aid for Creative Scientific Research (No. 16GS0304) and by Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research on Priority Areas (c) “Genome Biology” (No. 1320611) from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan.


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© The Botanical Society of Japan and Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of ScienceUniversity of TokyoTokyoJapan

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