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Letters to Nature
Nature 337, 380 - 382 (26 January 1989); doi:10.1038/337380a0

The relationship of a prochlorophyte Prochlorothrix hollandicato green chloroplasts

Seán Turner*, Tineke Burger-Wiersma, Stephen J. Giovannoni*, Luuc R. Mur & Norman R. Pace*

* Department of Biology and Institute for Molecular and Cellular Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana 47405, USA
Laboratory for Microbiology, University of Amsterdam, Nieuwe Achtergracht 127, 1018 WS Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Present address: Department of Microbiology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, USA.

It is generally accepted that chloroplasts arose from one or more endosymbiotic events between an ancestral cyanobacterium and a eukaryote1. Such an origin fits well in the case of the chloroplasts of rhodophytes that, like cyanobacteria, contain chlorophyll a and phycobilin pigments2. The green chloroplasts from higher plants, green algae, and euglenoids however, contain chlorophyll b as well as chlorophyll a, and lack phycobilins. Consequently, it has been suggested that they arose independently of the rhodophyte chloroplasts, from an ancestral prokaryote containing that complement of pigments3. The 'prochlorophytes'Prochloron didemni (an exosymbiont on didemnid ascidians4,5) and Prochlorothrix hollandica(a recently discovered, free-living, filamentous form6) have been suggested to be modern counterparts of the ancestor of the green chloroplasts because they are prokaryotes that also contain both chlorophylls a and ft, and lack phycobilins7,8. We report here a 16S rRNA-based phylogenetic analysis of P. hollandica. The organism is found to fall within the cyanobacterial line of descent, as do the green chloroplasts, but it is not a specific relative of green chloroplasts. Thus, similar pigment compositions do not necessarily reflect close evolutionary relationships.

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