Gene Acquisitions from Bacteria at the Origins of Major Archaeal Clades Are Vastly Overestimated

Mol Biol Evol. 2016 Feb;33(2):305-10. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msv249. Epub 2015 Nov 4.


In a recent article, Nelson-Sathi et al. (NS) report that the origins of major archaeal lineages (MAL) correspond to massive group-specific gene acquisitions via HGT from bacteria (Nelson-Sathi et al. 2015. Origins of major archaeal clades correspond to gene acquisitions from bacteria. Nature 517(7532):77-80.). If correct, this would have fundamental implications for the process of diversification in microbes. However, a reexamination of these data and results shows that the methodology used by NS systematically inflates the number of genes acquired at the root of each MAL, and incorrectly assumes bacterial origins for these genes. A reanalysis of their data with appropriate phylogenetic models accounting for the dynamics of gene gain and loss between lineages supports the continuous acquisition of genes over long periods in the evolution of Archaea.

Keywords: Archaea; ancestral genome reconstruction; horizontal gene transfer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Archaea / classification
  • Archaea / genetics*
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal*
  • Genes, Archaeal
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Genomics
  • Genotype*
  • Phylogeny