Anaerobic mitochondria: Properties and origins

Aloysius G.M. Tielens, Jaap J. Van Hellemond

Research output: Chapter/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic

9 Citations (Scopus)


Mitochondria are usually considered to be the powerhouses of the cell and to be responsible for the aerobic production of ATP. However, it is now known that not all mitochondria are the same, and that not all mitochondria comply with the classic textbook image of an oxygen-dependent organelle. Several other types of mitochondria exist that do not use oxygen for ATP production. Anaerobic energy-generating organelles exist that produce ATP with the help of proton-pumping electron transport (anaerobic mitochondria with oxidative phosphorylation), whereas other types produce hydrogen and lack an electron-transport chain (hydrogenosomes). All ATP-producing organelles supposedly originated from one single endosymbiotic ancestor, which raises the question whether those anaerobically functioning mitochondria evolved directly from this early endosymbiont? Possible evolutionary origins of these mitochondria will be discussed, and it will be argued that anaerobically functioning mitochondria most likely did not originate directly from the ancestral endosymbiont, but arose later in evolution from aerobic types of mitochondria. In our opinion, the anaerobically functioning mitochondria are the result of adaptations of aerobic ones to hypoxic environments. This implies that these anaerobic mitochondria are in fact a further evolution and not a more primitive form. Mitochondria are rather diverse and adapted to distinct conditions and this diversity has evolved via multiple adaptations that occurred independently in various unrelated eukaryotic lineages.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOrigin of Mitochondria and Hydrogenosomes
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9783540385028
ISBN (Print)3540385010, 9783540385011
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2007. All rights reserved.


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