Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 25: Jan-Feb 1983

Issue Contents

Other pages

Other Interesting Sites











Promiscuous Dna

The cells of plants (photosynthetic eukaryotes) are genetically the most complex that biologists have discovered. Each cell has three genetic systems: its own, that of the chloroplasts; and that of the mitochondria. It is supposed that the chloroplasts and mitochondria were once free-living cells that linked up with the embryonic plant cell to form a symbiotic partnership, with the host "plant" cell being the dominant member.

Up until now, the three genetic systems were thought to be discrete, each going down its own pathway. But chloroplasts genes have now been found inside plant mitochondria, overturning conventional wisdom. To sum it all up, DNA seems promiscuous -- no respecter of privacy and breaking down all isolating genetic barriers.

This discovery at once raises a dozen questions. For example, are mitochondria genes in chloroplast cells? How far does this promiscuity go? Can the same thing happen in higher organisms; say, with humans and symbiotic microorganisms or even not-so-symbiotic disease organisms? Is there no stopping this DNA?

(Ellis, John; "Promiscuous DNA -- Chloroplast Genes inside Plant Mitochondria," Nature, 299:678, 1982.)

From Science Frontiers #25, JAN-FEB 1983. 1983-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987