One of the enduring questions in biology is how eukaryotic cells arose from prokaryotic ancestors at least 2 billion years ago. Besides differences in genome organization, eukaryotic animals, plants, and fungi possess a much higher degree of cellular compartmentation in the form of membrane bound organelles than their distant bacterial and Archaean cousins. But how did such a plethora of cellular domains, each with a discrete role in metabolism, evolve?

To the extent that science proves anything, it answered the question for two eukaryotic organelles a long time ago. Mitochondria and chloroplasts evolved from endosymbiotic associations between an ancestral host cell and smaller prokaryotic partners. In the case of chloroplasts, the symbiont was a photosynthetic cyanobacterium; for mitochondria, most likely it was ana-proteobacterium.

The cytoplasm of eukaryotic cells is like chicken soup-it's chock full of organelles suspended like chunks of assorted vegetables and noodles in cytosolic broth. The...

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