Mitochondria and the origin of eukaryotes

A cartoon image of mitochondria as green, oblong shapes on a black background.

Enlarge (credit score: NIH)

For billions of years after the origin of life, the one residing issues on Earth had been tiny, primitive cells resembling right this moment’s micro organism. However then, greater than 1.5 billion years in the past, one thing exceptional occurred: A kind of primitive cells, belonging to a gaggle often called the archaea, swallowed a unique one—a bacterium.

As a substitute of being digested, the bacterium took up everlasting residence throughout the different organism as what biologists name an endosymbiont. Ultimately, it built-in absolutely into its archaeal host cell, changing into what we all know right this moment because the mitochondrion, the essential energy-producing element of the cell.

Its acquisition has lengthy been considered as the important thing step in what’s arguably a very powerful evolutionary leap because the origin of life itself: the transition from early primitive cells, or prokaryotes, to the extra subtle cells of upper organisms, or eukaryotes, together with ourselves.

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