Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Evolutionary Biology and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

The dinoflagellates Durinskia baltica and Kryptoperidinium foliaceum retain functionally overlapping mitochondria from two evolutionarily distinct lineages

Behzad Imanian and Patrick J Keeling*

Author Affiliations

Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Department of Botany, University of British Columbia, 3529-6270 University Boulevard, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Evolutionary Biology 2007, 7:172  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-7-172

Published: 24 September 2007



The dinoflagellates Durinskia baltica and Kryptoperidinium foliaceum are distinguished by the presence of a tertiary plastid derived from a diatom endosymbiont. The diatom is fully integrated with the host cell cycle and is so altered in structure as to be difficult to recognize it as a diatom, and yet it retains a number of features normally lost in tertiary and secondary endosymbionts, most notably mitochondria. The dinoflagellate host is also reported to retain mitochondrion-like structures, making these cells unique in retaining two evolutionarily distinct mitochondria. This redundancy raises the question of whether the organelles share any functions in common or have distributed functions between them.


We show that both host and endosymbiont mitochondrial genomes encode genes for electron transport proteins. We have characterized cytochrome c oxidase 1 (cox1), cytochrome oxidase 2 (cox2), cytochrome oxidase 3 (cox3), cytochrome b (cob), and large subunit of ribosomal RNA (LSUrRNA) of endosymbiont mitochondrial ancestry, and cox1 and cob of host mitochondrial ancestry. We show that all genes are transcribed and that those ascribed to the host mitochondrial genome are extensively edited at the RNA level, as expected for a dinoflagellate mitochondrion-encoded gene. We also found evidence for extensive recombination in the host mitochondrial genes and that recombination products are also transcribed, as expected for a dinoflagellate.


Durinskia baltica and K. foliaceum retain two mitochondria from evolutionarily distinct lineages, and the functions of these organelles are at least partially overlapping, since both express genes for proteins in electron transport.