Discovery of a missing link in the evolution of eukaryotic cells

New Center publication in Nature

2017.01.12 | Maj Thimm Carlsen

Gravity Coring in Aarhus Bay on board Aurora, Aarhus University's research vessel. Photo by Nils Risgaard-Petersen, graphic by Kasper Urup Kjeldsen.

Gravity Coring in Aarhus Bay. Photo by Bo Barker Jørgensen, graphic by Kasper Urup Kjeldsen.

Researchers from the Center for Geomicrobiology contribute to the  discovery of a missing link in the evolution of eukaryotic cells .

A research team lead by Thijs Ettema from Uppsala University in Sweden used massive sequencing of environmental DNA from aquatic sediments and bioinformatics to reconstruct the genomes of so-called Asgaard archaea; many of these could be found in the muddy sediments of Aarhus Bay, where Kasper Kjeldsen, Piotr Starnawski, and Andreas Schramm (Center for Geomicrobiology, Aarhus University) took their samples. The genome sequences show that the Asgaard archaea are the closest known relatives of the ancestor of eukaryotes, and the genomes encode versions of proteins previously thought to be unique to eukaryotes. The study thus highlights that eukaryotes evolved from a merger of an archaeal and a bacterial cell and illuminates the first steps towards the evolution of the eukaryotic cell.

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