Alveolates are a diverse group of protists that includes three major lineages: ciliates, apicomplexa, and dinoflagellates. Among these three, it is thought that the apicomplexa and dinoflagellates are more closely related to one another than to ciliates. However, this conclusion is based almost entirely on results from ribosomal RNA phylogeny because very few morphological characters address this issue and scant molecular data are available from dinoflagellates. To better examine the relationships between the three major alveolate groups, we have sequenced six genes from the non-photosynthetic dinoflagellate, Crypthecodinium cohnii: actin, beta-tubulin, hsp70, BiP, hsp90, and mitochondrial hsp10. Beta-tubulin, hsp70, BiP, and hsp90 were found to be useful for intra-alveolate phylogeny, and trees were inferred from these genes individually and in combination. Trees inferred from individual genes generally supported the apicomplexa-dinoflagellate grouping, as did a combined analysis of all four genes. However, it was also found that the outgroup had a significant effect on the topology within alveolates when using certain methods of phylogenetic reconstruction, and an alternative topology clustering dinoflagellates and ciliates could not be rejected by the combined data. Altogether, these results support the sisterhood of apicomplexa and dinoflagellates, but point out that the relationship is not as strong as is often assumed.
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Vol. 49 • No. 1