The marine dinoflagellates Peridinium balticum and Peridinium foliaceum are known for bearing diatom endosymbionts instead of peridinin-containing plastids. While evidence clearly indicates that their endosymbionts are closely related, the relationship between the host dinoflagellate cells is not settled. To examine the relationship of the two dinoflagellates, the DNA sequences of nuclear small-subunit rRNA genes (SSU rDNA) from Peridinium balticum, Peridinium foliaceum and one other peridinin-containing species, Peridinium bipes, were amplified, cloned and sequenced. While phylogenetic analyses under simple models of nucleotide substitution weakly support the monophyly of Peridinium balticum and Peridinium foliaceum, analyses under more sophisticated models significantly increased the statistical support for this relationship. Combining these results with the similarity between the two endosymbionts, it is concluded that (i) the two hosts have the closest sister relationship among dinoflagellates tested, (ii) the hypothesis that the diatom endosymbiosis occurred prior to the separation of the host cells is most likely to explain their evolutionary histories, and (iii) phylogenetic inferences under complex nucleotide evolution models seem to be able to compensate significant rate variation in the two SSU rDNA.


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