Hydrogenosomes of Anaerobic Ciliates

  • Johannes H. P. Hackstein
  • Rob M. de Graaf
  • Jaap J. van Hellemond
  • Aloysius G. M. TielensEmail author
Part of the Microbiology Monographs book series (MICROMONO, volume 9)


Ciliates are highly complex unicellular eukaryotes. Most of them live in aerobic environments and possess mitochondria that use oxygen as final electron acceptor. However, in several orders of ciliates, anaerobic species evolved that contain hydrogenosomes, ATP-producing organelles that use protons as final electron acceptor, producing hydrogen in this process. These hydrogenosomes of ciliates have not been studied in the same detail as those of trichomonads and anaerobic fungi. Therefore, generalizations on the characteristics of hydrogenosomes of ciliates are somewhat premature, especially since phylogenetic studies suggest that hydrogenosomes have evolved independently several times in ciliates. In this chapter, the hydrogenosomes of the anaerobic, heterotrichous ciliate Nyctotherus ovalis from the hindgut of cockroaches will mainly be described as these are the ones that are, at the moment, the most thoroughly studied. This was the first hydrogenosome shown to possess a genome, and this genome is clearly of mitochondrial origin. In fact, the hydrogenosome of N. ovalis unites typical mitochondrial features such as a genome and an electron-transport chain with the characteristic hydrogenosomal property, the production of hydrogen. The hydrogenosomal metabolism of N. ovalis will be compared with that of two other ciliates that have been studied in less detail, i.e. the holotrichous rumen ciliate Dasytricha and the free-living plagiopylid ciliate Trimyema. All studies combined show that the hydrogenosomes of anaerobic ciliates are different from those of anaerobic fungi and from the well-studied ones in trichomonads.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Johannes H. P. Hackstein
    • 1
  • Rob M. de Graaf
    • 1
  • Jaap J. van Hellemond
    • 2
  • Aloysius G. M. Tielens
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Faculty of ScienceInstitute of Water and Wetland Research (IWWR), Radboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Erasmus MCUniversity Medical Center RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Biochemistry and Cell BiologyUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

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