Recently, the first investigation of nucleoli using mass spectrometry led to the identification of 271 proteins. This represents a rich resource for a comprehensive investigation of nucleolus evolution. We applied a protocol for the identification of known and novel conserved protein domains of the nucleolus, resulting in the identification of 115 known and 91 novel domain profiles. The phyletic distribution of nucleolar protein domains in a collection of complete proteomes of selected organisms from all domains of life confirms the archaebacterial origin of the core machinery for ribosome maturation and assembly, but also reveals substantial eubacterial and eukaryotic contributions to nucleolus evolution. We predict that, in different phases of nucleolus evolution, protein domains with different biochemical functions were recruited to the nucleolus. We suggest a model for the late and continuous evolution of the nucleolus in early eukaryotes and argue against an endosymbiotic origin of the nucleolus and the nucleus. Supplementary material for this article can be found on the BioEssays website at http://www.interscience.wiley.com/jpages/0265-9247/suppmat/index.html.
Copyright 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.