Research NewsCell Biology

Parasites Shed Light on Cellular Evolution

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Science  07 Mar 1997:
Vol. 275, Issue 5305, pp. 1422
DOI: 10.1126/science.275.5305.1422

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It's been well established that the energy-producing mitochondria and photosynthesizing chloroplasts of today's cells originated from bacteria that took up residence in some ancestral cell. But new studies indicate that such organelles can also be acquired when a complex cell engulfs another complex cell. On page 1485, researchers report that single-cell parasites, including Toxoplasma, which causes infections in AIDS patients, and malaria-causing Plasmodium, apparently got their chloroplast-like organelles when an ancestor engulfed an algal cell. Not only do the new findings shed light on cellular evolution, but the plastids found in the parasites may be new targets for drug therapies.