Nature 392, 37-41 (5 March 1998) | doi:10.1038/32096

The hydrogen hypothesis for the first eukaryote

William Martin1 & Miklós Müller2


A new hypothesis for the origin of eukaryotic cells is proposed, based on the comparative biochemistry of energy metabolism. Eukaryotes are suggested to have arisen through symbiotic association of an anaerobic, strictly hydrogen-dependent, strictly autotrophic archaebacterium (the host) with a eubacterium (the symbiont) that was able to respire, but generated molecular hydrogen as a waste product of anaerobic heterotrophic metabolism. The host's dependence upon molecular hydrogen produced by the symbiont is put forward as the selective principle that forged the common ancestor of eukaryotic cells.

  1. Institut für Genetik, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Spielmannstrasse 7, D-38023 Braunschweig, Germany
  2. The Rockefeller University, 1230 York Avenue, New York, New York 10021, USA

Correspondence to: William Martin1Miklós Müller2 Correspondence should be addressed to W.M. (e-mail: Email: w.martin@tu-bs.de) or to M.M.(e-mail: Email: mmuller@rockvax.rockefeller.edu).