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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Major New Microbial Groups Expand Diversity and Alter our Understanding of the Tree of Life

  • Author(s): Castelle, CJ
  • Banfield, JF
  • et al.

© 2018 Elsevier Inc. The recent recovery of genomes for organisms from phyla with no isolated representative (candidate phyla) via cultivation-independent genomics enabled delineation of major new microbial lineages, namely the bacterial candidate phyla radiation (CPR), DPANN archaea, and Asgard archaea. CPR and DPANN organisms are inferred to be mostly symbionts, and some are episymbionts of other microbial community members. Asgard genomes encode typically eukaryotic systems, and their inclusion in phylogenetic analyses results in placement of eukaryotes as a branch within Archaea. Here, we illustrate how new genomes have changed the structure of the tree of life and altered our understanding of biology, evolution, and metabolic roles in biogeochemical processes. Recent advances in genome-resolved metagenomics and single-cell genomics have dramatically expanded the tree of life, uncovering new major lineages of Bacteria and Archaea. In this Perspective, Castelle and Banfield explore how this explosion of new genome sequence information is revolutionizing our view of microbial metabolism in global biogeochemical cycles, the relationships among members of natural microbial communities, and the evolution of life.

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