Nature Reviews Microbiology 8, 731-741 (October 2010) | doi:10.1038/nrmicro2406

Evolution of diverse cell division and vesicle formation systems in Archaea

Kira S. Makarova1, Natalya Yutin1, Stephen D. Bell2 & Eugene V. Koonin1  About the authors


Recently a novel cell division system comprised of homologues of eukaryotic ESCRT-III (endosomal sorting complex required for transport III) proteins was discovered in the hyperthermophilic crenarchaeote Sulfolobus acidocaldarius. On the basis of this discovery, we undertook a comparative genomic analysis of the machineries for cell division and vesicle formation in Archaea. Archaea possess at least three distinct membrane remodelling systems: the FtsZ-based bacterial-type system, the ESCRT-III-based eukaryote-like system and a putative novel system that uses an archaeal actin-related protein. Many archaeal genomes encode assortments of components from different systems. Evolutionary reconstruction from these findings suggests that the last common ancestor of the extant Archaea possessed a complex membrane remodelling apparatus, different components of which were lost during subsequent evolution of archaeal lineages. By contrast, eukaryotes seem to have inherited all three ancestral systems.

Author affiliations

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20894, USA.
  2. Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3RE, UK.

Correspondence to: Stephen D. Bell2 Email:

Correspondence to: Eugene V. Koonin1 Email:

Published online 6 September 2010


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