Research NewsEvolutionary Biology

Searching for Living Relics of the Cell's Early Days

Science  12 Sep 1997:
Vol. 277, Issue 5332, pp. 1604
DOI: 10.1126/science.277.5332.1604

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CHAFFEY'S LOCKS, ONTARIO-- Single-celled creatures thought to represent the earliest stages in the evolution of complex cells, before they acquired the energy-producing organelles called mitochondria, may not be such good models after all. At a meeting of evolutionary biologists here, researchers presented evidence that mitochondria may have appeared well before these "ancestors." But while biologists may be losing their models for the ancestral eukaryotic cell, they are finding a whole gallery of models for the evolution of complex cells soon after specialized bacteria took up residence in them to form the mitochondria. Researchers presented genetic portraits of three mitochondria, from three different organisms, that may chronicle the transition from newly acquired bacterium to highly modified organelle.