A photosynthetic alveolate closely related to apicomplexan parasites

Robert B. Moore, Miroslav Oborník, Jan Janouškovec, Tomáš Chrudimský, Marie Vancová, David H. Green, Simon W. Wright, Noel W. Davies, Christopher J.S. Bolch, Kirsten Heimann, Jan Šlapeta, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, John M. Logsdon, Dee A. Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

366 Citations (Scopus)


Many parasitic Apicomplexa, such as Plasmodium falciparum, contain an unpigmented chloroplast remnant termed the apicoplast, which is a target for malaria treatment. However, no close relative of apicomplexans with a functional photosynthetic plastid has yet been described. Here we describe a newly cultured organism that has ultrastructural features typical for alveolates, is phylogenetically related to apicomplexans, and contains a photosynthetic plastid. The plastid is surrounded by four membranes, is pigmented by chlorophyll a, and uses the codon UGA to encode tryptophan in the psbA gene. This genetic feature has been found only in coccidian apicoplasts and various mitochondria. The UGA-Trp codon and phylogenies of plastid and nuclear ribosomal RNA genes indicate that the organism is the closest known photosynthetic relative to apicomplexan parasites and that its plastid shares an origin with the apicoplasts. The discovery of this organism provides a powerful model with which to study the evolution of parasitism in Apicomplexa.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)959-963
Number of pages5
Issue number7181
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2008
Externally publishedYes


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