The slow road to the eukaryotic genome
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1002/bies.20344
The eukaryotic genome is a mosaic of eubacterial and archaeal genes in addition to those unique to itself. The mosaic may have arisen as the result of two prokaryotes merging their genomes, or from genes acquired from an endosymbiont of eubacterial origin. A third possibility is that the eukaryotic genome arose from successive events of lateral gene transfer over long periods of time. This theory does not exclude the endosymbiont, but questions whether it is necessary to explain the peculiar set of eukaryotic genes. We use phylogenetic studies and reconstructions of ancestral first appearances of genes on the prokaryotic phylogeny to assess evidence for the lateral gene transfer scenario. We find that phylogenies advanced to support fusion can also arise from a succession of lateral gene transfer events. Our reconstructions of ancestral first appearances of genes reveal that the various genes that make up the eukaryotic mosaic arose at different times and in diverse lineages on the prokaryotic tree, and were not available in a single lineage. Successive events of lateral gene transfer can explain the unusual mosaic structure of the eukaryotic genome, with its content linked to the immediate adaptive value of the genes its acquired. Progress in understanding eukaryotes may come from identifying ancestral features such as the eukaryotic splicesome that could explain why this lineage invaded, or created, the eukaryoticniche.