Engineering yeast endosymbionts as a step toward the evolution of mitochondria

Angad P. Mehta, Lubica Supekova, Jian Hua Chen, Kersi Pestonjamasp, Paul Webster, Yeonjin Ko, Scott C. Henderson, Gerry McDermott, Frantisek Supek, Peter G. Schultz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It has been hypothesized that mitochondria evolved from a bacterial ancestor that initially became established in an archaeal host cell as an endosymbiont. Here we model this first stage of mitochondrial evolution by engineering endosymbiosis between Escherichia coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae An ADP/ATP translocase-expressing E. coli provided ATP to a respiration-deficient cox2 yeast mutant and enabled growth of a yeast-E. coli chimera on a nonfermentable carbon source. In a reciprocal fashion, yeast provided thiamin to an endosymbiotic E. coli thiamin auxotroph. Expression of several SNARE-like proteins in E. coli was also required, likely to block lysosomal degradation of intracellular bacteria. This chimeric system was stable for more than 40 doublings, and GFP-expressing E. coli endosymbionts could be observed in the yeast by fluorescence microscopy and X-ray tomography. This readily manipulated system should allow experimental delineation of host-endosymbiont adaptations that occurred during evolution of the current, highly reduced mitochondrial genome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11796-11801
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number46
StatePublished - Nov 13 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • ADP/ATP translocase
  • endosymbiotic theory
  • evolution
  • mitochondria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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