Hypothesis

Nature 460, 967-971 (20 August 2009) | doi:10.1038/nature08183

Evidence for an early prokaryotic endosymbiosis

James A. Lake1,2,3,4

Endosymbioses have dramatically altered eukaryotic life, but are thought to have negligibly affected prokaryotic evolution. Here, by analysing the flows of protein families, I present evidence that the double-membrane, Gram-negative prokaryotes were formed as the result of a symbiosis between an ancient actinobacterium and an ancient clostridium. The resulting taxon has been extraordinarily successful, and has profoundly altered the evolution of life by providing endosymbionts necessary for the emergence of eukaryotes and by generating Earth's oxygen atmosphere. Their double-membrane architecture and the observed genome flows into them suggest a common evolutionary mechanism for their origin: an endosymbiosis between a clostridium and actinobacterium.

  1. Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology,
  2. Molecular Biology Institute,
  3. Department of Human Genetics,
  4. UCLA Astrobiology Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA

Correspondence to: James A. Lake1,2,3,4 Correspondence should be addressed to J.A.L. (Email: lake@mbi.ucla.edu).

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