Archaeal "dark matter" and the origin of eukaryotes

Tom A. Williams*, T. Martin Embley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Current hypotheses about the history of cellular life are mainly based on analyses of cultivated organisms, but these represent only a small fraction of extant biodiversity. The sequencing of new environmental lineages therefore provides an opportunity to test, revise, or reject existing ideas about the tree of life and the origin of eukaryotes. According to the textbook three domains hypothesis, the eukaryotes emerge as the sister group to a monophyletic Archaea. However, recent analyses incorporating better phylogenetic models and an improved sampling of the archaeal domain have generally supported the competing eocyte hypothesis, in which core genes of eukaryotic cells originated from within the Archaea, with important implications for eukaryogenesis. Given this trend, it was surprising that a recent analysis incorporating new genomes from uncultivated Archaea recovered a strongly supported three domains tree. Here, we show that this result was due in part to the use of a poorly fitting phylogenetic model and also to the inclusion by an automated pipeline of genes of putative bacterial origin rather than nucleocytosolic versions for some of the eukaryotes analyzed. When these issues were resolved, analyses including then ewarchaeal lineages placedcore eukaryotic genes within the Archaea. These results are consistent with a number of recent studies in which improved archaeal sampling and better phylogenetic models agree in supporting the eocyte tree over the three domains hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)474-481
Number of pages8
JournalGenome Biology and Evolution
Volume6
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Keywords

  • "Dark matter"
  • Eukaryogenesis
  • Phylogenetics
  • Tree of Life

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