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Symbiogenesis UPSC NOTE

 What is the theory of symbiogenesis and a recent discovery that supports it?

  • The theory of symbiogenesis, also known as the endosymbiotic theory, proposes that complex eukaryotic cells arose from the merging of simpler prokaryotic cells

  • Eukaryotic vs. Prokaryotic Cells: Eukaryotic cells are more complex and have membrane-bound organelles like mitochondria and chloroplasts, whereas prokaryotic cells are simpler and lack these structures.

  • The Merging: Symbiogenesis suggests that an ancient ancestor of mitochondria was once a free-living bacterium that became engulfed by another prokaryotic cell. 

  • A similar process is thought to have occurred with chloroplasts, originating from photosynthetic bacteria.

  • Endosymbiotic Relationship: Over time, an endosymbiotic relationship developed, where the engulfed bacteria provided benefits to the host cell (like energy production) and eventually became dependent on the host for survival.

Nitrogen fixation and its importance

  • Nitrogen fixation is a critical process for life on Earth

  • It's the conversion of atmospheric nitrogen (N2) gas, which is unusable by most organisms, into a usable form that living things can incorporate into essential biomolecules.

Here's why nitrogen fixation is so important:

  • Essential for life: Nitrogen is a fundamental building block of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. 

  • Proteins are essential for nearly every biological process in living organisms

  • Nitrogen is also found in nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) and other important molecules.

  • Atmospheric nitrogen is unavailable: Although nitrogen gas makes up about 78% of Earth's atmosphere.

  • it's a very stable molecule that most organisms can't break apart and use directly.

What is nitroplast?

  • Nitroplast is a relatively new discovery and refers to a recently identified organelle found in certain species of algae, particularly Braarudosphaera bigelowii. 

  • They play a crucial role in nitrogen fixation.

  • Previously, this process was thought to be exclusive to bacteria and archaea

  • The discovery of nitroplasts challenges this notion and sheds light on alternative mechanisms for nitrogen fixation in some algae.

  • They exhibit typical characteristics of organelles.

  • They are inherited during cell division and rely on proteins provided by the host algae cell


  • Imaging studies suggest they divide along with the host cell, ensuring their presence in daughter cells.

  • Significance: The discovery of nitroplasts has significant implications for both cellular biology and agricultural science. 

  • It expands our understanding of how organisms can fix nitrogen and opens doors for further research into this vital process.

  • It's important to note that nitroplasts are a recent finding, and research is ongoing to fully understand their structure, function, and prevalence in different algae.

New discovery’s Implications for agriculture

  • The discovery of nitroplasts and their role in nitrogen fixation in some algae has exciting potential implications for agriculture, but it's still early days for research. 

  • If scientists can understand how nitroplasts work in nitrogen fixation.

  • They might be able to develop methods to encourage or replicate this process in other plants. 

  • This could potentially reduce our dependence on synthetic nitrogen fertilizers.

  • Which can be expensive and have environmental drawbacks like water pollution from fertilizer runoff.


  • Increased nitrogen availability through enhanced biological nitrogen fixation could lead to improved crop yields, particularly for crops like legumes (beans, lentils, peas) that have a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria.

  • By potentially reducing reliance on synthetic fertilizers, nitroplast research could contribute to more sustainable agricultural practices.


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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Symbiogenesis UPSC NOTE
Symbiogenesis UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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