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Gut microbe may challenge textbook on complex cells

Mitochondria go missing in cell found in chinchilla droppings

12:08pm, May 12, 2016

SMALLEST LOSER  This gut microbe, known for decades, may change the way textbooks describe complex cells: It appears to be missing mitochondria.

A gut microbe collected from chinchilla droppings might be the first complex life form to lack even a shred of a supposedly universal organelle.

Monocercomonoides, a one-celled gut microbe collected from a pet chinchilla in Prague decades ago, apparently has no mitochondria, the organelles known as the cell’s power plants. Cataloging DNA in the microbe turns up none of the known genes for mitochondrial proteins. But stealing genetic material from bacteria — which survive without mitochondria — allowed the microbe to do without them, too, researchers report May 12 in Current Biology.

Mitochondria are tiny capsules that speckle the insides of all complex cells from pond scum to people, or so textbooks have said for decades. Some complex (or eukaryotic) cells look as if they have no mitochondria; so far, though, further searches have eventually detected

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