We want to know why anaerobic eukaryotes never lose their mitochondria despite the fact they cannot use oxygen as terminal electron acceptor for their respiration and therefore, retaining mitochondria does not seem to make sense. However, mitochondria are retained but in highly modified form known as hydrogenosomes or mitosomes depending on whether or not they produce hydrogen. These remnant mitochondria have lost many key features considered to be classic mitochondrial characteristics such as cristae and an organellar genome. Thus far, one biosynthetic pathway seems to be conserved in these organelles, the production of iron-sulfur clusters. Does this have any relevance to the origin of mitochondria? In addition, can the unusual metabolic pathways present in these enigmatic organelles lead to potential new drug targets in the case of parasitic microbes?
Schematic tree depicting the distribution of anaerobic microbial eukaryotes (in brown) in the eukaryotes. H indicates that hydrogenosomes are present while M indicates the presence of mitosomes.
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