A great essay on why protists are cool, by Cyrus Martin in Current Biology:
Biology's dark matter. 2015. 25: R301–R327. Current Biology.
By Martin Kolisko, Vittorio Boscaro, Fabien Burki, Denis H. Lynn, and Patrick J. Keeling
The Marine Microbial Eukaryote Transcriptome Sequencing Project (MMETSP): Illuminating the Functional Diversity of Eukaryotic Life in the Oceans through Transcriptome Sequencing. PLOS Biology. 12(6): e1001889
The Eukaryotic Tree of Life from a Global Phylogenomic Perspective. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2014. 6:a016147
Molecular phylogenetics has revolutionized our knowledge of the eukaryotic tree of life. With the advent of genomics, a new discipline of phylogenetics has emerged: phylogenomics. This method uses large alignments of tens to hundreds of genes to reconstruct evolutionary histories. This approach has led to the resolution of ancient and contentious relationships, notably between the building blocks of the tree (the supergroups), and allowed to place in the tree enigmatic yet important protist lineages for understanding eukaryote evolution. In this review, I discuss the pros and cons of phylogenomics and review the eukaryotic supergroups in light of earlier work that laid the foundation for the current view of the tree, including the position of the root. I conclude by presenting a picture of eukaryote evolution, summarising the most recent progress in assembling the global tree.
A short story about Rhizaria, one of the main groups of eukaryotes that has remained poorly studied. This primer also contains an introduction describing the imbalance of genome sequencing versus diversity in eukaryotes.
Endosymbiotic gene transfer in tertiary plastid-containing dinoflagellates. Eukaryot. Cell. 2014. 13(2):246-255.
Plastid establishment involves the transfer of endosymbiotic genes to the host nucleus, a process known as endosymbiotic gene transfer (EGT). Large amounts of EGT have been shown in several photosynthetic lineages but also in present-day plastid-lacking organisms, supporting the notion that endosymbiotic genes leave a substantial genetic footprint in the host nucleus. Yet the extent of this genetic relocation remains debated, largely because the long period that has passed since most plastids originated has erased many of the clues to how this process unfolded. Among the dinoflagellates, however, the ancestral peridinin-containing plastid has been replaced by tertiary plastids on several more recent occasions, giving us a less ancient window to examine plastid origins. In this study, we evaluated the endosymbiotic contribution to the host genome in two dinoflagellate lineages with tertiary plastids. We generated the first nuclear transcriptome data sets for the “dinotoms,” which harbor diatom-derived plastids, and analyzed these data in combination with the available transcriptomes for kareniaceans, which harbor haptophyte-derived plastids. We found low level of detectable EGT in both dinoflagellate lineages, with only 9 genes and 90 genes of possible tertiary endosymbiotic origin in dinotoms and kareniaceans, respectively, suggesting that tertiary endosymbioses did not heavily impact the host dinoflagellate genomes.
Dispatch by Mark van der Giezen on our recent paper in Current Biology (Burki et al. 2013. 23:1541-1547): Phylogenomics of the intracellular parasite Mikrocytos mackini reveals evidence for a mitosome in Rhizaria.
Phylogenomics of the Intracellular Parasite Mikrocytos mackini Reveals Evidence for a Mitosome in Rhizaria. Current Biology. 2013. 23:1-7.
Mikrocytos mackini is an intracellular protistan parasite of oysters whose position in the phylogenetic tree of eukaryotes has been a mystery for many years. M. mackini is difficult to isolate, has not been cultured, and has no defining morphological feature. Furthermore, its only phylogenetic marker that has been successfully sequenced to date (the small subunit ribosomal RNA) is highly divergent and has failed to resolve its evolutionary position. M. mackini is also one of the few eukaryotes that lacks mitochondria, making both its phylogenetic position and comparative analysis of mitochondrial function particularly important. Here, we have obtained transcriptomic data for M. mackini from enriched isolates and constructed a 119-gene phylogenomic data set. M. mackini proved to be among the fastest-evolving eukaryote lineages known to date, but, nevertheless, our analysis robustly placed it within Rhizaria. Searching the transcriptome for genetic evidence of a mitochondrion-related organelle (MRO) revealed only four mitochondrion-derived genes: IscS, IscU, mtHsp70, and FdxR. Interestingly, all four genes are involved in iron- sulfur cluster formation, a biochemical pathway common to other highly reduced ‘‘mitosomes’’ in unrelated MRO-containing lineages. This is the first evidence of MRO in Rhizaria, and it suggests the parallel evolution of mitochondria to mitosomes in this supergroup.
Cryptophyte and chlorarachniophyte algae are transitional forms in the widespread secondary endosymbiotic acquisition of photosynthesis by engulfment of eukaryotic algae. Unlike most secondary plastid-bearing algae, miniaturized versions of the endosymbiont nuclei (nucleomorphs) persist in cryptophytes and chlorarachniophytes. To determine why, and to address other fundamental questions about eukaryote–eukaryote endosymbiosis, we sequenced the nuclear genomes of the cryptophyte Guillardia theta and the chlorarachniophyte Bigelowiella natans. Both genomes have .21,000 protein genes and are intron rich, and B. natans exhibits unprecedented alternative splicing for a single-celled organism. Phylogenomic analyses and subcellular targeting predictions reveal extensive genetic and biochemical mosaicism, with both host- and endosymbiont-derived genes servicing the mitochondrion, the host cell cytosol, the plastid and the remnant endosymbiont cytosol of both algae. Mitochondrion-to-nucleus gene transfer still occurs in both organisms but plastid-to-nucleus and nucleomorph-to-nucleus transfers do not, which explains why a small residue of essential genes remains locked in each nucleomorph.