Cell division is mediated by different mechanisms in different evolutionary lineages. While bacteria and euryarchaea utilize an FtsZ-based mechanism, most crenarchaea divide using the Cdv system, related to the eukaryotic ESCRT-III machinery. Intriguingly, thaumarchaeal genomes encode both FtsZ and Cdv protein homologues, raising the question of their division mode. Here, we provide evidence indicating that Cdv is the primary division system in the thaumarchaeon Nitrosopumilus maritimus. We also show that the cell cycle is differently organized as compared to hyperthermophilic crenarchaea, with a longer pre-replication phase and a shorter post-replication stage. In particular, the time required for chromosome replication is remarkably extensive, 15-18 h, indicating a low replication rate. Further, replication did not continue to termination in a significant fraction of N. maritimus cell populations following substrate depletion. Both the low replication speed and the propensity for replication arrest are likely to represent adaptations to extremely oligotrophic environments. The results demonstrate that thaumarchaea, crenarchaea and euryarchaea display differences not only regarding phylogenetic affiliations and gene content, but also in fundamental cellular and physiological characteristics. The findings also have implications for evolutionary issues concerning the last archaeal common ancestor and the relationship between archaea and eukaryotes.
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.