Chloroplasts are generally known as eukaryotic organelles whose main function is photosynthesis. They perform other functions, however, such as synthesizing isoprenoids, fatty acids, heme, iron sulphur clusters and other essential compounds. In non-photosynthetic lineages that possess plastids, the chloroplast genomes have been reduced and most (or all) photosynthetic genes have been lost. Consequently, non-photosynthetic plastids have also been reduced structurally. Some of these non-photosynthetic or “cryptic” plastids were overlooked or unrecognized for decades. The number of complete plastid genome sequences and/or transcriptomes from non-photosynthetic taxa possessing plastids is rapidly increasing, thus allowing prediction of the functions of non-photosynthetic plastids in various eukaryotic lineages. In some non-photosynthetic eukaryotes with photosynthetic ancestors, no traces of plastid genomes or of plastids have been found, suggesting that they have lost the genomes or plastids completely. This review summarizes current knowledge of non-photosynthetic plastids, their genomes, structures and potential functions in free-living and parasitic plants, algae and protists. We introduce a model for the order of plastid gene losses which combines models proposed earlier for land plants with the patterns of gene retention and loss observed in protists. The rare cases of plastid genome loss and complete plastid loss are also discussed.
Current Genetics – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 12, 2017
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