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The Universal Tree of Life: Are Microbes from Hell Our Ancestors?

The Universal Tree of Life: Are Microbes from Hell Our Ancestors?

Chapter:
(p.181) 5 The Universal Tree of Life: Are Microbes from Hell Our Ancestors?
Source:
Microbes from Hell
Author(s):
Patrick Forterre, Teresa Lavender Fagan
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226265964.003.0006

The chapter starts with a history of archaeal genomic and continue discussing the impact of genomic revolution on the author’s work and on several critical evolutionary issues. Notably, comparative genomic associated to phylogenetic analyses, revealed that reverse gyrase is the only protein specific for hyperthermophiles and was probably not present in LUCA, again suggesting a cold LUCA. Many molecular features are common to archaea and eukaryotes. To illustrate this point, the author explains how the discovery of a new family of DNA topoisomerase in archaea allowed him to identify a protein at the origin of eukaryotic sex, which also determines the size of plants! The role of bioinformatics in modern biology is emphasised, with spotlight on Eugene Koonin, a major actor in the field. In the last sections, the author presents arguments against the popular idea that eukaryotes emerged from the engulfment of a bacterium by an archaeon. This scenario was recently boosted by the reconstruction from metagenomic data of the genomes of new archaea, such as the Lokiarchaea, supposed to be sister groups of eukaryotes. The author reported recent results from his laboratory showing that this is probably not the case and supporting the classical Woese’s tree of life.

Keywords:   genomic, phylogenomic, bioinformatic, Eugene koonin, reverse gyrase, DNA topoisomerase, origin of sex, origin of eukaryotes, metagenomic, Lokiarchaeota

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