Hehenberger E, Imanian B, Burki F, Keeling PJ
Genome Biol Evol 6 (9) 2321-2334 [2014-09-00; online 2014-08-28]
Dinoflagellates harboring diatom endosymbionts (termed "dinotoms") have undergone a process often referred to as "tertiary endosymbiosis"--the uptake of algae containing secondary plastids and integration of those plastids into the new host. In contrast to other tertiary plastids, and most secondary plastids, the endosymbiont of dinotoms is distinctly less reduced, retaining a number of cellular features, such as their nucleus and mitochondria and others, in addition to their plastid. This has resulted in redundancy between host and endosymbiont, at least between some mitochondrial and cytosolic metabolism, where this has been investigated. The question of plastidial redundancy is particularly interesting as the fate of the host dinoflagellate plastid is unclear. The host cytosol possesses an eyespot that has been postulated to be a remnant of the ancestral peridinin plastid, but this has not been tested, nor has its possible retention of plastid functions. To investigate this possibility, we searched for plastid-associated pathways and functions in transcriptomic data sets from three dinotom species. We show that the dinoflagellate host has indeed retained genes for plastid-associated pathways and that these genes encode targeting peptides similar to those of other dinoflagellate plastid-targeted proteins. Moreover, we also identified one gene encoding an essential component of the dinoflagellate plastid protein import machinery, altogether suggesting the presence of a functioning plastid import system in the host, and by extension a relict plastid. The presence of the same plastid-associated pathways in the endosymbiont also extends the known functional redundancy in dinotoms, further confirming the unusual state of plastid integration in this group of dinoflagellates.