Skip to main content
eScholarship
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Asgard archaea illuminate the origin of eukaryotic cellular complexity

  • Author(s): Zaremba-Niedzwiedzka, K
  • Caceres, EF
  • Saw, JH
  • Bäckström, D
  • Juzokaite, L
  • Vancaester, E
  • Seitz, KW
  • Anantharaman, K
  • Starnawski, P
  • Kjeldsen, KU
  • Stott, MB
  • Nunoura, T
  • Banfield, JF
  • Schramm, A
  • Baker, BJ
  • Spang, A
  • Ettema, TJG
  • et al.
Abstract

© 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature. The origin and cellular complexity of eukaryotes represent a major enigma in biology. Current data support scenarios in which an archaeal host cell and an alphaproteobacterial (mitochondrial) endosymbiont merged together, resulting in the first eukaryotic cell. The host cell is related to Lokiarchaeota, an archaeal phylum with many eukaryotic features. The emergence of the structural complexity that characterizes eukaryotic cells remains unclear. Here we describe the Asgard superphylum, a group of uncultivated archaea that, as well as Lokiarchaeota, includes Thor-, Odin- A nd Heimdallarchaeota. Asgard archaea affiliate with eukaryotes in phylogenomic analyses, and their genomes are enriched for proteins formerly considered specific to eukaryotes. Notably, thorarchaeal genomes encode several homologues of eukaryotic membrane-trafficking machinery components, including Sec23/24 and TRAPP domains. Furthermore, we identify thorarchaeal proteins with similar features to eukaryotic coat proteins involved in vesicle biogenesis. Our results expand the known repertoire of eukaryote-specific proteins in Archaea, indicating that the archaeal host cell already contained many key components that govern eukaryotic cellular complexity.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC Academic Senate's Open Access Policy. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
Current View