A Rare Event

The discovery of a marine bacterium that has been subsumed into its algal host organism is a rare event. This has only happened three times before in the history of life on Earth. The first time this happened led to the creation of the first complex life forms, mitochondria.

The Birth of Mitochondria

The first time this endosymbiosis event happened, it gave rise to mitochondria. Mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell, responsible for cellular respiration. This event marked the dawn of complex life on Earth.

The Birth of Chloroplasts

The second time this event happened was over a billion years ago. This event led to the birth of chloroplasts. Chloroplasts are the sites of photosynthesis in plants and algae.

Discovery of UCYN-A

Pacific surprise! UC Santa Cruz team led by Prof. Zehr finds unique nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria (UCYN-A) 30 years ago. This discovery is rewriting the story of cellular evolution!

UCYN-A's Host Organism

Meanwhile, in Japan, paleontologist Kyoko Hagino was working on growing a marine alga that would turn out to be UCYN-A's host organism.

A Closer Look at Endosymbiosis

Aliens no more! Marine bacterium (UCYN-A) snuggled inside its alga (Braarudosphaera bigelowii) for millions of years. Over time, UCYN-A became dependent on the host, even losing some genes! This incredible partnership led to a new organelle being born - a mind-blowing discovery

Nitroplast Function

Introducing the Nitroplast: A young organelle (100 million years old) with a big job! Unlike ancient organelles like mitochondria, it helps its algae host capture atmospheric nitrogen, vital for life but unusable by most organisms. This game-changer could revolutionize agriculture

Looking to the Future

The Nitroplast discovery is a game-changer! Scientists see potential to engineer similar organs into crops, reducing reliance on fertilizers and boosting yields in nitrogen-starved soils.  This could revolutionize agriculture!  Plus, studying the Nitroplast might unlock secrets about early life and similar events in other organisms!