Evolutionary relationships among "jakobid" flagellates as indicated by alpha- and beta-tubulin phylogenies. Academic Article uri icon


  • Jakobids are free-living, heterotrophic flagellates that might represent early-diverging mitochondrial protists. They share ultrastructural similarities with eukaryotes that occupy basal positions in molecular phylogenies, and their mitochondrial genome architecture is eubacterial-like, suggesting a close affinity with the ancestral alpha-proteobacterial symbiont that gave rise to mitochondria and hydrogenosomes. To elucidate relationships among jakobids and other early-diverging eukaryotic lineages, we characterized alpha- and beta-tubulin genes from four jakobids: Jakoba libera, Jakoba incarcerata, Reclinomonas americana (the "core jakobids"), and Malawimonas jakobiformis. These are the first reports of nuclear genes from these organisms. Phylogenies based on alpha-, beta-, and combined alpha- plus beta-tubulin protein data sets do not support the monophyly of the jakobids. While beta-tubulin and combined alpha- plus beta-tubulin phylogenies showed a sister group relationship between J. libera and R. americana, the two other jakobids, M. jakobiformis and J. incarcerata, had unclear affinities. In all three analyses, J. libera, R. americana, and M. jakobiformis emerged from within a well-supported large "plant-protist" clade that included plants, green algae, cryptophytes, stramenopiles, alveolates, Euglenozoa, Heterolobosea, and several other protist groups, but not animals, fungi, microsporidia, parabasalids, or diplomonads. A preferred branching order within the plant-protist clade was not identified, but there was a tendency for the J. libera-R. americana lineage to group with a clade made up of the heteroloboseid amoeboflagellates and euglenozoan protists. Jakoba incarcerata branched within the plant-protist clade in the beta- and the combined alpha- plus beta-tubulin phylogenies. In alpha- tubulin trees, J. incarcerata occupied an unresolved position, weakly grouping with the animal/fungal/microsporidian group or with amitochondriate parabasalid and diplomonad lineages, depending on the phylogenetic method employed. Tubulin gene phylogenies were in general agreement with mitochondrial gene phylogenies and ultrastructural data in indicating that the "jakobids" may be polyphyletic. Relationships with the putatively deep-branching amitochondriate diplomonads remain uncertain.

publication date

  • April 2001