Evolution of the archaeal and mammalian information processing systems: towards an archaeal model for human disease

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2017 Jan;74(2):183-212. doi: 10.1007/s00018-016-2286-y. Epub 2016 Jun 3.


Current evolutionary models suggest that Eukaryotes originated from within Archaea instead of being a sister lineage. To test this model of ancient evolution, we review recent studies and compare the three major information processing subsystems of replication, transcription and translation in the Archaea and Eukaryotes. Our hypothesis is that if the Eukaryotes arose within the archaeal radiation, their information processing systems will appear to be one of kind and not wholly original. Within the Eukaryotes, the mammalian or human systems are emphasized because of their importance in understanding health. Biochemical as well as genetic studies provide strong evidence for the functional similarity of archaeal homologs to the mammalian information processing system and their dissimilarity to the bacterial systems. In many independent instances, a simple archaeal system is functionally equivalent to more elaborate eukaryotic homologs, suggesting that evolution of complexity is likely an central feature of the eukaryotic information processing system. Because fewer components are often involved, biochemical characterizations of the archaeal systems are often easier to interpret. Similarly, the archaeal cell provides a genetically and metabolically simpler background, enabling convenient studies on the complex information processing system. Therefore, Archaea could serve as a parsimonious and tractable host for studying human diseases that arise in the information processing systems.

Keywords: Cancer; Genome; Health; Medicine; Methanococcus; Mutation; Prokaryote; TACK.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Archaea / genetics*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • DNA Replication / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Mammals / genetics*
  • Protein Biosynthesis / genetics*
  • Transcription, Genetic*