The tetrapyrrole synthesis pathway as a model of horizontal gene transfer in euglenoids
The history of euglenoids may have begun as early as ~2 bya. These early phagotrophs ate cyanobacteria, archaea, and eubacteria, and the subsequent appearance of red algae and chromalveolates provided euglenoids with additional food sources. Following the appearance of green algae, euglenoids acquired a chloroplast via a secondary endosymbiotic event with a green algal ancestor. This endosymbiosis also involved a massive transfer of nuclear-encoded genes from the symbiont nucleus to the host. Expecting these genes to have a green algal origin, this research has shown, through the use of DNA-sequences and the analysis of phylogenetic relationships, that many housekeeping genes have a red algal/chromalveolate ancestry. This suggested that many other endosymbiotic/horizontal gene transfers, which brought genes from chromalveolates to euglenoids, may have been taking place long before the acquisition of the chloroplast. The investigation of the origin of the enzymes involved in the tetrapyrrole synthesis pathway provided insights into horizontal gene transfer in euglenoids and demonstrated that the euglenoid nuclear genome is a mosaic comprised of genes from the ancestral lineage plus genes transferred endosymbiotically/horizontally from green, red, and chromalveolates lineages.