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Evolution of rRNA and origin of mitochondria


The origin of mitochondria has remained a matter of discussion and speculation since Altmann first proposed the endosymbiont hypothesis in 18901. Mitochondria may have arisen by the invasion of aerobic2,3 or anaerobic photosynthetic4 bacteria into ancestral protokaryotic cells, or in a non-symbiotic fashion by compartmentalization of episomal DNA5,6. We have now tested these hypotheses by comparing nucleotide sequences of small ribosomal subunit RNA (S-rRNA) genes from mitochondria of Aspergillus nidulans, yeast7, man8 and mouse9, from nuclei of yeast10 and animals11–13, and from Escherichia coli14 and maize chloroplasts15. All rRNA molecules deduced from gene sequences share several regions of conserved primary and potential secondary structure. An evolutionary tree analysis of gene sequences supports the endosymbiotic eubacterial origin of fungal mitochondria and further suggests an independent bacterial origin of animal mitochondria.

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Küntzel, H., Köchel, H. Evolution of rRNA and origin of mitochondria. Nature 293, 751–755 (1981).

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