A Mitochondrial-Like Chaperonin 60 Gene in Giardia lamblia: Evidence that Diplomonads Once Harbored an Endosymbiont Related to the Progenitor of Mitochondria
Diplomonads, parabasalids, as represented by trichomonads, and microsporidia are three protist lineages lacking mitochondria that branch earlier than all other eukaryotes in small subunit rRNA and elongation factor phylogenies. The absence of mitochondria and plastids in these organisms suggested that they diverged before the origin of these organelles. However, recent discoveries of mitochondrial-like heat shock protein 70 and/or chaperonin 60 (cpn60) genes in trichomonads and microsporidia imply that the ancestors of these two groups once harbored mitochondria or their endosymbiotic progenitors. In this report, we describe a mitochondrial-like cpn60 homolog from the diplomonad parasite Giardia lamblia. Northern and Western blots reveal that the expression of cpn60 is independent of cellular stress and, except during excystation, occurs throughout the G. lamblia life cycle. Phylogenetic analyses position the G. lamblia cpn60 in a clade that includes mitochondrial and hydrogenosomal cpn60 proteins. The most parsimonious interpretation of these data is that the cpn60 gene was transferred from the endosymbiotic ancestors of mitochondria to the nucleus early in eukaryotic evolution, before the divergence of the diplomonads and trichomonads from other extant eukaryotic lineages. A more complicated explanation requires that these genes originated from distinct α-proteobacterial endosymbioses that formed transiently within these protist lineages.