Early Cell Evolution, Eukaryotes, Anoxia, Sulfide, Oxygen, Fungi First (?), and a Tree of Genomes Revisited

IUBMB Life. Apr-May 2003;55(4-5):193-204. doi: 10.1080/1521654031000141231.


Genomes contain evidence for the history of life and furthermore contain evidence for lateral gene transfer, which was an important part of that history. The geological record also contains evidence for the history of life, and newer findings indicates that the Earth's oceans were largely anoxic and highly sulfidic up until about 0.6 billion years ago. Eukaryotes, which fossil data indicate to have been in existence for at least 1.5 billion years, must have therefore spent much of their evolutionary history in oxygen-poor and sulfide-rich environments. Many eukaryotes still inhabit such environments today. Among eukaryotes, organelles also contain evidence for the history of life and have preserved abundant traces of their anaerobic past in the form of energy metabolic pathways. New views of eukaryote phylogeny suggest that fungi may be among the earliest-branching eukaryotes. From the standpoint of the fungal feeding habit (osmotrophy rather than phagotrophy) and from the standpoint of the diversity in their ATP-producing pathways, a eukaryotic tree with fungi first would make sense. Because of lateral gene transfer and endosymbiosis, branches in the tree of genomes intermingle and occasionally fuse, but the overall contours of cell history nonetheless seem sketchable and roughly correlateable with geological time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atmosphere / chemistry
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Eukaryotic Cells / classification*
  • Fungi / classification*
  • Fungi / genetics
  • Fungi, Unclassified / classification
  • Fungi, Unclassified / genetics
  • Genome*
  • Mitochondria / classification
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • Oxygen / chemistry
  • Phylogeny*
  • Plastids / classification
  • Plastids / genetics
  • Prokaryotic Cells / classification*
  • Sulfides / chemistry
  • Sulfur / analysis
  • Time Factors


  • Sulfides
  • Sulfur
  • Oxygen