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

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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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Figure 1: Competing hypotheses for the origin of the eukaryotic host cell.
Figure 2: Archaeal links in the origin of eukaryotes.

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

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Correspondence to T. Martin Embley.

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Williams, T., Foster, P., Cox, C. et al. An archaeal origin of eukaryotes supports only two primary domains of life. Nature 504, 231–236 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature12779

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