The cryptomonads and chlorarachniophytes are two unicellular algal lineages with complex cellular structures and fascinating evolutionary histories. Both groups acquired their photosynthetic abilities through the assimilation of eukaryotic endosymbionts. As a result, they possess two distinct cytosolic compartments and four genomes—two nuclear genomes, an endosymbiont-derived plastid genome and a mitochondrial genome derived from the host cell. Like mitochondrial and plastid genomes, the genome of the endosymbiont nucleus, or ‘nucleomorph’, of cryptomonad and chlorarachniophyte cells has been greatly reduced through the combined effects of gene loss and intracellular gene transfer. This article focuses on the structure, function, origin and evolution of cryptomonad and chlorarachniophyte nucleomorph genomes in light of recent comparisons of genome sequence data from both groups. It is now possible to speculate on the reasons that nucleomorphs persist in cryptomonads and chlorarachniophytes but have been lost in all other algae with plastids of secondary endosymbiotic origin. BioEssays 29:392–402, 2007. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.