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3.2: Mitochondria and Chloroplasts

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  • To escape from competition, cells which were prokaryotic became larger. To facilitate communication between all parts of this larger cell, they developed cytoplasm mobility using actin protein. In turn, this mobility resulted in acquiring phagocytosis, which is when a large cell changes shape and can engulf (“eat”) other cells. This way, cells that used to be prey became predators. These predators captured prey by phagocytosis and digested bacteria in lysosomes, which use enzymes that destroy the cytoplasmic components of the bacterial cells.

    The threat of predators result in cells became even larger, and these cells will need a better supply of ATP. Some prey which were not digested, and turned out to be useful in providing ATP. Of course, predator cells should also invent a proper transport through the resulted double membrane! Due to natural selection, those prey, which were purple bacteria, became the cell’s mitochondria. This is symbiogenesis, or the formation of two separate organisms into a single organism (Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\)).

    Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 10.07.58 PM.png

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\)​​​​​​​ Schematic overview of the eukaryotic (plant_1) cell.

    Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 10.08.40 PM.png

    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\) Symbiogenetic origin of eukaryotic cell (top row) and algal cell (bottom row).

    Another result of a larger cell (eukatyotic cells are typically 10–100 fold larger than prokaryotic) is that the size of DNA will increase, and to hold it, the cell will form a nucleus. The new predator cells also needed to prevent alien organisms from transferring their genes which will delay the evolution.

    The other reason is that the nucleus protects the DNA by enclosing it; in case if DNA virus comes into the cell and tries to mock up cell DNA, eukaryotic cell immediately destroys any DNA found in the cytoplasm. One more reason to make nucleus is pressure of antibiotics: nucleus improves isolation from these harmful chemicals. Nucleus formation and symbiogenesis leaded cells to become eukaryotic.

    To be called an eukaryote, it is more important to have phagocytosis and mitochondria then nucleus because (1) nucleus is not always exists, it could disappear during the division of cell and (2) some prokaryotes (planctobacteria) also have membrane compartments containing DNA.

    On next step, some eukaryotes also captured cyanobacteria (or another photosynthetic eukaryote), which became chloroplasts. These photosynthetic protists are called algae.

    In all, eukaryotic cells are “second-level cells” because they are cells made up of multiple cells. Cells of all eukaryotes have two genomes, nuclear usually has biparental origin whereas mitochondial genome normally originates only from mother. Plant cells, in turn, have three genomes, and chloroplast genome is usually also inherited maternally.

    Chloroplasts synthesize organic compounds whereas mitochondria produce most of the cytoplasmic ATP. Both organells are covered with two membranes and contain circular DNA and ribosomes similar to bacterial. Chloroplasts have thylakoids, or inner membrane pockets and vesicles. Chloroplast thylakoids could be long (lamellae) or short and stacked (granes). In turn, mitochondria could be branched and inter-connecting.

    Chloroplasts are normally green because of chlorophyll which converts light energy into chemical energy. Some chloroplasts lose chlorophyll and become transparent, “white”, they are called leucoplasts. Other chloroplasts could be red and/or orange (chromoplasts), because they are rich of carotenes and xanthophyls. These pigments facilitate photosynthesis and are directly responsible for the fall colors of leaves. Since starch is a more compact way of storing energy than glucose, chloroplasts store carbohydrates as starch grains. Transparent amyloplasts contain large granules of starch. Storage tissues of potato tubers, carrot roots, sweet potato roots, and grass seeds are examples of tissues rich in amyloplasts.

    Having chloroplasts and cell walls are not directly connected, but almost all organisms with chloroplasts have also cell walls. Probably, this is because cell walls do not facilitate cell motility, and for those protists which already have cell walls, obtaining chloroplast will be the nice way for coming out of competition with organotrophic beings.