A modern descendant of early green algal phagotrophs

Shinichiro Maruyama, Eunsoo Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Green algae, land plants, and other photosynthetic eukaryotes possess plastids, such as chloroplasts, which have evolved from cyanobacterial ancestors via endosymbiosis [1]. An early evolutionary merger between heterotrophic eukaryotes and cyanobacteria called primary endosymbiosis gave rise to the first photosynthetic eukaryotes. A series of plastid acquisitions involving engulfment of eukaryotic phototrophs, known as secondary or tertiary endosymbiosis, followed [2]. Through these repeated symbiotic events, photosynthesis spread across a number of eukaryotic lineages [2, 3]. While the origin of eukaryotic photosynthesis was undoubtedly a fundamentally important evolutionary event in Earth's history, without which much of the modern marine phytoplankton would not exist, the cellular processes that shaped this initial plastid genesis remain largely unknown. Here, we report ultrastructural evidence for bacterial phagocytosis in a primary plastid-bearing alga. This mixotrophic green alga utilizes a mouth-like opening, a tubular channel, and a large permanent vacuole to engulf, transport, and digest bacterial cells. This mode of phagocytosis, likely inherited from its plastid-lacking ancestor, differs from those displayed by many other eukaryotes, including animals, amoebas, and ciliates. These results provide insight into the key phagocytosis step during the origin of the first photosynthetic eukaryotes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1081-1084
Number of pages4
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 17 Jun 2013


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