Monday, May 11, 2015

Lokiarchaea

A few days ago, a paper was published in Nature, about a new archaea that serves as a bridge between eukaryotes and prokaryotes. The archaeon was discovered in deep marine sediments, near hydrothermal vents by the Arctic mid-ocean ridge (of course). Named after the shape-shifting Norse deity, Loki, the name Lokiarchaea reflects the complexity and confusion surrounding the origin of eukaryotes.

Initial phylogenetic analysis was performed using 16S rRNA gene sequences. Upon the identification of the archaeon, deep sequencing was used for genomic information. Lokiarchaea is monophyletic with eukaryotes. Lokiarchaea show a striking number of similar (genetic) components to eukaryotes.
The paper discusses genes that encode for actin, which is a key structural protein in eukaryotes (phagocytosis, motility, cell division). Lokiarchaea also have genes that encode for multiple GTPase proteins (regulators of actin cytoskeleton), which most bacterial and archaea do code for.

I find it incredible that all of these findings were based purely on molecular work--it would be very cool if someone was able to culture this archaeon...

For the paper, click here.

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