Rooting the domain archaea by phylogenomic analysis supports the foundation of the new kingdom Proteoarchaeota

Genome Biol Evol. 2014 Dec 19;7(1):191-204. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evu274.


The first 16S rRNA-based phylogenies of the Archaea showed a deep division between two groups, the kingdoms Euryarchaeota and Crenarchaeota. This bipartite classification has been challenged by the recent discovery of new deeply branching lineages (e.g., Thaumarchaeota, Aigarchaeota, Nanoarchaeota, Korarchaeota, Parvarchaeota, Aenigmarchaeota, Diapherotrites, and Nanohaloarchaeota) which have also been given the same taxonomic status of kingdoms. However, the phylogenetic position of some of these lineages is controversial. In addition, phylogenetic analyses of the Archaea have often been carried out without outgroup sequences, making it difficult to determine if these taxa actually define lineages at the same level as the Euryarchaeota and Crenarchaeota. We have addressed the question of the position of the root of the Archaea by reconstructing rooted archaeal phylogenetic trees using bacterial sequences as outgroup. These trees were based on commonly used conserved protein markers (32 ribosomal proteins) as well as on 38 new markers identified through phylogenomic analysis. We thus gathered a total of 70 conserved markers that we analyzed as a concatenated data set. In contrast with previous analyses, our trees consistently placed the root of the archaeal tree between the Euryarchaeota (including the Nanoarchaeota and other fast-evolving lineages) and the rest of archaeal species, which we propose to class within the new kingdom Proteoarchaeota. This implies the relegation of several groups previously classified as kingdoms (e.g., Crenarchaeota, Thaumarchaeota, Aigarchaeota, and Korarchaeota) to a lower taxonomic rank. In addition to taxonomic implications, this profound reorganization of the archaeal phylogeny has also consequences on our appraisal of the nature of the last archaeal ancestor, which most likely was a complex organism with a gene-rich genome.

Keywords: Archaea; Euryarchaeota; Proteoarchaeota; phylogenomics; root.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Archaea / genetics*
  • Archaeal Proteins / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genome, Archaeal
  • Genomics*
  • Phylogeny*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics


  • Archaeal Proteins
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S