Illuminating the evolutionary history of chlamydiae.
Chlamydiae are the major cause of preventable blindness and sexually transmitted disease. Genome analysis of a chlamydia-related symbiont of free-living amoebae revealed that it is twice as large as any of the pathogenic chlamydiae and had few signs of recent lateral gene acquisition. We showed that about 700 million years ago the last common ancestor of pathogenic and symbiotic chlamydiae was already adapted to intracellular survival in early eukaryotes and contained many virulence factors found in modern pathogenic chlamydiae, including a type III secretion system. Ancient chlamydiae appear to be the originators of mechanisms for the exploitation of eukaryotic cells.