Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 287–292 | Cite as

Biochemical and genetic consequences of gene transfer from endosymbiont to host genome

  • Alexis Harington
  • Alan L. Thornley


In the origin of the mitochondrion and plastid, gene transfer from the ancestral endosymbiont to the host was proposed to be a crucial event. For this genic integration to proceed, products of transferred genes had to return to and enter the endosymbionts. The limiting event was the crossing of the barrier presented by the two semipermeable membranes bounding the proto-organelle. In this paper it is suggested that spontaneous transport allowed transferred gene encoded proteins to enter the endosymbionts before receptors evolved. The effects of these events, including the degeneration of the endosymbiont genome, are discussed. Although the presumed gene transfer had profound effects on the metabolic relationships between host and endosymbionts it probably cannot account for all examples of organelle/cytoplasmic isozyme pairs or the absence of amino acid synthetic enzymes in animal cells.

Key words

Evolution Endosymbiosis Gene transfer Transmembrane movement of proteins Receptors 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexis Harington
    • 1
  • Alan L. Thornley
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

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