Unexpected mitochondrial genome diversity revealed by targeted single-cell genomics of heterotrophic flagellated protists

Jeremy G. Wideman, Adam Monier, Raquel Rodríguez-Martínez, Guy Leonard, Emily Cook, Camille Poirier, Finlay Maguire, David S. Milner, Nicholas A.T. Irwin, Karen Moore, Alyson E. Santoro, Patrick J. Keeling, Alexandra Z. Worden, Thomas A. Richards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Most eukaryotic microbial diversity is uncultivated, under-studied and lacks nuclear genome data. Mitochondrial genome sampling is more comprehensive, but many phylogenetically important groups remain unsampled. Here, using a single-cell sorting approach combining tubulin-specific labelling with photopigment exclusion, we sorted flagellated heterotrophic unicellular eukaryotes from Pacific Ocean samples. We recovered 206 single amplified genomes, predominantly from underrepresented branches on the tree of life. Seventy single amplified genomes contained unique mitochondrial contigs, including 21 complete or near-complete mitochondrial genomes from formerly under-sampled phylogenetic branches, including telonemids, katablepharids, cercozoans and marine stramenopiles, effectively doubling the number of available samples of heterotrophic flagellate mitochondrial genomes. Collectively, these data identify a dynamic history of mitochondrial genome evolution including intron gain and loss, extensive patterns of genetic code variation and complex patterns of gene loss. Surprisingly, we found that stramenopile mitochondrial content is highly plastic, resembling patterns of variation previously observed only in plants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)154-165
Number of pages12
JournalNature Microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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