This tree diagram shows the relationships between several groups of organisms.
The root of the current tree connects the organisms featured in this tree to their containing group and the rest of the Tree of Life. The basal branching point in the tree represents the ancestor of the other groups in the tree. This ancestor diversified over time into several descendent subgroups, which are represented as internal nodes and terminal taxa to the right.
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Relationships after Simpson et al. 2006.
Kinetoplastids (Kinetoplastea) are a widespread and very important group of obligatory parasitic protists. At least one stage in the life cycle of all members of this group is represented by a slender and highly flexible cell equipped with one or two flagella, arising from a prominent flagellar pocket. Another hallmark is the presence of extensive mitochondrial DNA, termed kinetoplast DNA and trans-splicing. Usually a centrally located nucleus can be seen in Giemsa-stained smeared cells. The size of the kinetoplastid cell varies from about 10 to 100 microns in length, and never exceeds 20 microns in width. When present in the life cycle, the intracellular stage is usually round and lacks the flagellum.
Since there are few morphological traits visible by light microscopy, electron microscopy is needed for visualization of subcellular structures. The flagellum is supported by a prominent structure, characteristic for kinetoplastid flagellates, termed paraflagellar rod. It is always well visible in cross-sectioned flagella with the exception of the part of the flagellum within the flagellar pocket. Cells are bound by a typical pellicular membrane, below which a series of evenly spaced subpellicular microtubules is located.
Kinetoplastid cells also contain a full set of typical eukaryotic organelles, such as a usually oval nucleus with a single central nucleolus, Golgi apparatus and endoplasmic reticulum. The size and shape of the mitochondrion, as well as the number of mitochondrial cristae are highly variable depending on the life cycle stage.
Discussion of Phylogenetic Relationships
On the grounds of morphology, kinetoplastids have been classified into two monophyletic groups, the biflagellate bodonids and uniflagellate trypanosomatids (Vickerman 1974). Molecular phylogeny confirmed the impression from ultrastructural analyses, namely that bodonids are a much more diverse group than the facultatively parasitic and morphologically rather uniform trypanosomatids. Furthermore, the descendence of trypanosomatids from bodonids is strongly supported by the molecular data. Parasitism apparently arose independently multiple times. Based solely on molecular data, two kinetoplastids are only very distantly related to the rest of the group, namely Ichthyobodo and Perkinsiella, for which a subclass Prokinetoplastina has been established (Moreira et al., 2004; Simpson et al., 2006).
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This page is being developed as part of the Tree of Life Web Project Protist Diversity Workshop, co-sponsored by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) program in Integrated Microbial Biodiversity and the Tula Foundation.
University of South Bohemia in Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic
Correspondence regarding this page should be directed to Julius Lukes at
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- First online 02 January 2009
- Content changed 02 January 2009
Citing this page:
Lukes, Julius. 2009. Kinetoplastida. Version 02 January 2009 (under construction). http://tolweb.org/Kinetoplastida/98013/2009.01.02 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/