Photosynthetic eukaryotes unite: Endosymbiosis connects the dots

Debashish Bhattacharya, Hwan Su Yoon, Jeremiah D. Hackett

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

257 Scopus citations


The photosynthetic organelle of algae and plants (the plastid) traces its origin to a primary endosymbiotic event in which a previously non-photosynthetic protist engulfed and enslaved a cyanobacterium. This eukaryote then gave rise to the red, green and glaucophyte algae. However, many algal lineages, such as the chlorophyll c-containing chromists, have a more complicated evolutionary history involving a secondary endosymbiotic event, in which a protist engulfed an existing eukaryotic alga (in this case, a red alga). Chromists such as diatoms and kelps then rose to great importance in aquatic habitats. Another algal group, the dinoflagellates, has undergone tertiary (engulfment of a secondary plastid) and even quaternary endosymbioses. In this review, we examine algal diversity and show endosymbiosis to be a major force in algal evolution. This area of research has advanced rapidly and long-standing issues such as the chromalveolate hypothesis and the extent of endosymbiotic gene transfer have recently been clarified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)50-60
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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