Journal Article

An Evolutionary Network of Genes Present in the Eukaryote Common Ancestor Polls Genomes on Eukaryotic and Mitochondrial Origin

Thorsten Thiergart, Giddy Landan, Marc Schenk, Tal Dagan and William F. Martin

in Genome Biology and Evolution

Published on behalf of Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution

Volume 4, issue 4, pages 466-485
Published in print January 2012 |
Published online February 2012 | e-ISSN: 1759-6653 | DOI:

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To test the predictions of competing and mutually exclusive hypotheses for the origin of eukaryotes, we identified from a sample of 27 sequenced eukaryotic and 994 sequenced prokaryotic genomes 571 genes that were present in the eukaryote common ancestor and that have homologues among eubacterial and archaebacterial genomes. Maximum-likelihood trees identified the prokaryotic genomes that most frequently contained genes branching as the sister to the eukaryotic nuclear homologues. Among the archaebacteria, euryarchaeote genomes most frequently harbored the sister to the eukaryotic nuclear gene, whereas among eubacteria, the α-proteobacteria were most frequently represented within the sister group. Only 3 genes out of 571 gave a 3-domain tree. Homologues from α-proteobacterial genomes that branched as the sister to nuclear genes were found more frequently in genomes of facultatively anaerobic members of the rhiozobiales and rhodospirilliales than in obligate intracellular ricketttsial parasites. Following α-proteobacteria, the most frequent eubacterial sister lineages were γ-proteobacteria, δ-proteobacteria, and firmicutes, which were also the prokaryote genomes least frequently found as monophyletic groups in our trees. Although all 22 higher prokaryotic taxa sampled (crenarchaeotes, γ-proteobacteria, spirochaetes, chlamydias, etc.) harbor genes that branch as the sister to homologues present in the eukaryotic common ancestor, that is not evidence of 22 different prokaryotic cells participating at eukaryote origins because prokaryotic “lineages” have laterally acquired genes for more than 1.5 billion years since eukaryote origins. The data underscore the archaebacterial (host) nature of the eukaryotic informational genes and the eubacterial (mitochondrial) nature of eukaryotic energy metabolism. The network linking genes of the eukaryote ancestor to contemporary homologues distributed across prokaryotic genomes elucidates eukaryote gene origins in a dialect cognizant of gene transfer in nature.

Keywords: endosymbiosis; eukaryotes; phylogenomics; lateral gene transfer; horizontal gene transfer; endosymbiotic gene transfer

Journal Article.  11556 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Bioinformatics and Computational Biology ; Evolutionary Biology ; Genetics and Genomics

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