Archaeal phylogeny based on ribosomal proteins

Mol Biol Evol. 2002 May;19(5):631-9. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.molbev.a004122.


Until recently, phylogenetic analyses of Archaea have mainly been based on ribosomal RNA (rRNA) sequence comparisons, leading to the distinction of the two major archaeal phyla: the Euryarchaeota and the Crenarchaeota. Here, thanks to the recent sequencing of several archaeal genomes, we have constructed a phylogeny based on the fusion of the sequences of the 53 ribosomal proteins present in most of the archaeal species. This phylogeny was remarkably congruent with the rRNA phylogeny, suggesting that both reflected the actual phylogeny of the domain Archaea even if some nodes remained unresolved. In both cases, the branches leading to hyperthermophilic species were short, suggesting that the evolutionary rate of their genes has been slowed down by structural constraints related to environmental adaptation. In addition, to estimate the impact of lateral gene transfer (LGT) on our tree reconstruction, we used a new method that revealed that 8 genes out of the 53 ribosomal proteins used in our study were likely affected by LGT. This strongly suggested that a core of 45 nontransferred ribosomal protein genes existed in Archaea that can be tentatively used to infer the phylogeny of this domain. Interestingly, the tree obtained using only the eight ribosomal proteins likely affected by LGT was not very different from the consensus tree, indicating that LGT mainly brought random phylogenetic noise. The major difference involves organisms living in similar environments, suggesting that LGTs are mainly directed by the physical proximity of the organisms rather than by their phylogenetic proximity.

MeSH terms

  • Archaea / classification*
  • Archaea / genetics*
  • Archaeal Proteins / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genes, Archaeal
  • Phylogeny*
  • RNA, Archaeal / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal / genetics
  • Ribosomal Proteins / genetics*


  • Archaeal Proteins
  • RNA, Archaeal
  • RNA, Ribosomal
  • Ribosomal Proteins