Dinoflagellates with relic endosymbiont nuclei as models for elucidating organellogenesis

Chihiro Sarai, Goro Tanifuji, Takuro Nakayama, Ryoma Kamikawa, Kazuya Takahashi, Euki Yazaki, Eriko Matsuo, Hideaki Miyashita, Ken ichiro Ishida, Mitsunori Iwataki, Yuji Inagaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Nucleomorphs are relic endosymbiont nuclei so far found only in two algal groups, cryptophytes and chlorarachniophytes, which have been studied to model the evolutionary process of integrating an endosymbiont alga into a host-governed plastid (organellogenesis). However, past studies suggest that DNA transfer from the endosymbiont to host nuclei had already ceased in both cryptophytes and chlorarachniophytes, implying that the organellogenesis at the genetic level has been completed in the two systems. Moreover, we have yet to pinpoint the closest free-living relative of the endosymbiotic alga engulfed by the ancestral chlorarachniophyte or cryptophyte, making it difficult to infer how organellogenesis altered the endosymbiont genome. To counter the above issues, we need novel nucleomorph-bearing algae, in which endosymbiont-to-host DNA transfer is on-going and for which endosymbiont/plastid origins can be inferred at a fine taxonomic scale. Here, we report two previously undescribed dinoflagellates, strains MGD and TGD, with green algal endosymbionts enclosing plastids as well as relic nuclei (nucleomorphs). We provide evidence for the presence of DNA in the two nucleomorphs and the transfer of endosymbiont genes to the host (dinoflagellate) genomes. Furthermore, DNA transfer between the host and endosymbiont nuclei was found to be in progress in both the MGD and TGD systems. Phylogenetic analyses successfully resolved the origins of the endosymbionts at the genus level. With the combined evidence, we conclude that the host–endosymbiont integration in MGD/TGD is less advanced than that in cryptophytes/chrorarachniophytes, and propose the two dinoflagellates as models for elucidating organellogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5364-5375
Number of pages12
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Mar 10


  • Endosymbiotic gene transfer
  • Nucleomorph
  • Pedinophyceae
  • Plastid
  • Secondary endosymbiosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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