Wednesday, March 02, 2005

284: Missing link between

An anaerobic mitochondrion that produces hydrogen:

Hydrogenosomes are organelles that produce ATP and hydrogen, and are found in various unrelated eukaryotes, such as anaerobic flagellates, chytridiomycete fungi and ciliates. Although all of these organelles generate hydrogen, the hydrogenosomes from these organisms are structurally and metabolically quite different, just like mitochondria where large differences also exist. These differences have led to a continuing debate about the evolutionary origin of hydrogenosomes. Here we show that the hydrogenosomes of the anaerobic ciliate Nyctotherus ovalis, which thrives in the hindgut of cockroaches, have retained a rudimentary genome encoding components of a mitochondrial electron transport chain. Phylogenetic analyses reveal that those proteins cluster with their homologues from aerobic ciliates. In addition, several nucleus-encoded components of the mitochondrial proteome, such as pyruvate dehydrogenase and complex II, were identified. The N. ovalis hydrogenosome is sensitive to inhibitors of mitochondrial complex I and produces succinate as a major metabolic end product—biochemical traits typical of anaerobic mitochondria. The production of hydrogen, together with the presence of a genome encoding respiratory chain components, and biochemical features characteristic of anaerobic mitochondria, identify the N. ovalis organelle as a missing link between mitochondria and hydrogenosomes.
In English:

A somewhat rare cellular organelle produces hydrogen. Analysis reveals it to be biochemically associated with mitochondria. A protist living in cockroach guts has a structure which is a transitional form between mitochondria and hydrogenosomes.

Creationists get all excited about transitional forms, so enjoy. You probably have one living in your house.