Nature Reviews Genetics 5, 123-135 (February 2004) | doi:10.1038/nrg1271

Endosymbiotic gene transfer: organelle genomes forge eukaryotic chromosomes

Jeremy N. Timmis1, Michael A. Ayliffe2, Chun Y. Huang1 & William Martin3  About the authors


Genome sequences reveal that a deluge of DNA from organelles has constantly been bombarding the nucleus since the origin of organelles. Recent experiments have shown that DNA is transferred from organelles to the nucleus at frequencies that were previously unimaginable. Endosymbiotic gene transfer is a ubiquitous, continuing and natural process that pervades nuclear DNA dynamics. This relentless influx of organelle DNA has abolished organelle autonomy and increased nuclear complexity.

Author affiliations

  1. School of Molecular and Biomedical Science, The University of Adelaide, South Australia 5005, Australia.
  2. CSIRO Plant Industry, GPO Box 1600, Australian Capital Territory 2601, Australia.
  3. Institute of Botany III, University of Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf 40225, Germany.

Correspondence to: Jeremy N. Timmis1 Email:


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