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Microbes from Hell$
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Patrick Forterre

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226265827

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226265964.001.0001

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The Universal Tree of Life: Where to Place Microbes from Hell and Their Viruses?

The Universal Tree of Life: Where to Place Microbes from Hell and Their Viruses?

(p.131) 4 The Universal Tree of Life: Where to Place Microbes from Hell and Their Viruses?
Microbes from Hell

Patrick Forterre

, Teresa Lavender Fagan
University of Chicago Press

This chapter starts with a vivid description of the Crafoord prize 2003 ceremony in Stockholm when Carl Woese was honoured. The experiments that led to his discovery of archaea are described, with emphasis on the ribosomal RNA, the Rosetta stone of evolutionists. The bases of molecular phylogeny and the construction of the first rooted universal tree are explained. The hypothesis of direct link between a hot origin of life and a hyperthermophilic Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA) is criticized, based on the fragility of RNA and the RNA world theory. The author discusses his thermoreduction scenario in which Archaea and Bacteria originated from a cold LUCA by adaptation to high temperature. This scenario is supported by ancestral sequences reconstruction from Manolo Gouy, a “La recherche” prize winner, suggesting a cold LUCA and hot ancestors for Archaea and Bacteria and by comparative genomic suggesting that LUCA had a RNA genome. A visit to virologist Dennis Bamford in Helsinki allows discussing arguments revealing that viruses were already present at the time of LUCA and played a major role in the RNA to DNA transition. The chapter ends on challenging questions; are viruses living and where are there in the tree of life?

Keywords:   Crafoord prize, Carl Woese, molecular phylogeny, LUCA, universal tree of life, RNA world, DNA replication, ribosomal RNA, virus classification, virus origin, last universal common ancestor

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