Anoxia pp 51-81 | Cite as

The Biochemical Adaptations of Mitochondrion-Related Organelles of Parasitic and Free-Living Microbial Eukaryotes to Low Oxygen Environments

  • Anastasios D. Tsaousis
  • Michelle M. Leger
  • Courtney A. W. Stairs
  • Andrew J. Roger
Part of the Cellular Origin, Life in Extreme Habitats and Astrobiology book series (COLE, volume 21)


While many multicellular anaerobes possess mitochondria that resemble those of aerobic eukaryotes, microbial eukaryotes that live exclusively in anoxic and low oxygen environments harbor mitochondrion-related organelles (MROs). Currently, these organelles are broadly classified as either hydrogenosomes (anaerobic ATP-producing organelles that produce molecular hydrogen) or mitosomes (organelles that do not generate ATP); however, ongoing studies of diverse microbial lineages are revealing a wider spectrum of functional types. In adaptation to low oxygen conditions, the MROs of anaerobic eukaryotes have acquired unique characteristics, some of which do not appear to derive from the α-proteobacterium that gave rise to the ancestral mitochondrion. These characteristics include alternative pathways for pyruvate metabolism as well as enzymes such as [FeFe]-hydrogenases that collectively function in anaerobic energy metabolism. In addition to these pathways, the mitochondrial protein import, metabolic exchange, and Fe–S cluster biosynthesis machineries are present in all MROs studied to date; these systems support the protein, solute, and energy requirements of both the organelles and the cells that harbor them. MROs represent a unique class of organelles that have successfully adapted by reduction or alteration of existing pathways as well as by acquisition of novel metabolic machineries that allowed their hosts to thrive in diverse environments without oxygen.


Pyruvate Dehydrogenase Complex Entamoeba Histolytica Thalassiosira Pseudonana Pyruvate Formate Lyase Mitochondrial Carrier Family 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was supported from grant MOP-62809 from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research awarded to AJR. ADT was supported by a Marie Curie International Outgoing fellowship. AJR was supported by the Integrated Microbial Biodiversity program of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and the Canada Research Chairs program. MML was supported by an Aide à la Formation-Recherche awarded by the Fonds National de la Recherche (Luxembourg). CWS was supported by scholarships from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and Killam Trusts.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V.  2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Centre for Comparative Genomics and Evolutionary BioinformaticsDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada

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