Evolutionary relationships of apusomonads inferred from taxon-rich analyses of 6 nuclear encoded genes

Mol Biol Evol. 2006 Dec;23(12):2455-66. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msl120. Epub 2006 Sep 18.


The phylogenetic relationships of the biflagellate protist group Apusomonadidae have been unclear despite the availability of some molecular data. We analyzed sequences from 6 nuclear encoded genes-small-subunit rRNA, large-subunit rRNA, alpha-tubulin, beta-tubulin, actin, and heat shock protein 90-to infer the phylogenetic position of Apusomonas proboscidea Aléxéieff 1924. To increase the taxon richness of the study, we also obtained new sequences from representatives of several other major eukaryotic groups: Chrysochromulina sp. National Institute for Environmental Studies 1333 (Haptophyta), Cyanophora paradoxa (Glaucophyta), Goniomonas truncata (Cryptophyceae), Leucocryptos marina (Kathablepharidae), Mesostigma viride (Streptophyta, Viridiplantae), Peridinium limbatum (Alveolata), Pterosperma cristatum (Prasinophytae, Viridiplantae), Synura sphagnicola (Stramenopiles), and Thaumatomonas sp. (Rhizaria). In most individual gene phylogenies, Apusomonas branched close to either of the 2 related taxa-Opisthokonta (including animals, fungi, and choanoflagellates) or Amoebozoa. Combined analyses of all 4 protein-coding genes or all 6 studied genes strongly supported the hypothesis that Apusomonadidae is closely related to Opisthokonta (or to all other eukaryotic groups except Opisthokonta, depending on the position of the eukaryotic root). Alternative hypotheses were rejected in approximately unbiased tests at the 5% level. However, the strong phylogenetic signal supporting a specific affiliation between Apusomonadidae and Opisthokonta largely originated from the alpha-tubulin data. If alpha-tubulin is not considered, topologies in which Apusomonadidae is sister to Opisthokonta or is sister to Amoebozoa were more or less equally supported. One current model for deep eukaryotic evolution holds that eukaryotes are divided into primary "unikont" and "bikont" clades and are descended from a "uniflagellate" common ancestor. Together with other information, our data suggest instead that unikonts (=Opisthokonta and Amoebozoa) are not strictly monophyletic and are descended from biflagellate ancestors.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Eukaryota / classification
  • Eukaryota / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genes, Protozoan*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA