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An archaeal origin of eukaryotes supports only two primary domains of life

Nature volume 504, pages 231236 (12 December 2013) | Download Citation

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Abstract

The discovery of the Archaea and the proposal of the three-domains ‘universal’ tree, based on ribosomal RNA and core genes mainly involved in protein translation, catalysed new ideas for cellular evolution and eukaryotic origins. However, accumulating evidence suggests that the three-domains tree may be incorrect: evolutionary trees made using newer methods place eukaryotic core genes within the Archaea, supporting hypotheses in which an archaeon participated in eukaryotic origins by founding the host lineage for the mitochondrial endosymbiont. These results provide support for only two primary domains of life—Archaea and Bacteria—because eukaryotes arose through partnership between them.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by a Marie Curie postdoctoral fellowship to T.A.W. T.M.E. acknowledges support from the European Research Council Advanced Investigator Programme and the Wellcome Trust. We thank J. Archibald for comments on the manuscript.

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Affiliations

  1. Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences, University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4HH, UK

    • Tom A. Williams
    •  & T. Martin Embley
  2. Department of Life Sciences, Natural History Museum, London SW7 5BD, UK

    • Peter G. Foster
  3. Centro de Ciências do Mar, Universidade do Algarve, Campus de Gambelas, 8005-139 Faro, Portugal

    • Cymon J. Cox

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T.A.W., P.G.F., C.J.C. and T.M.E. wrote the manuscript.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to T. Martin Embley.

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