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Archaea with eukaryotic tendencies

Although the origin of eukaryotic cells from prokaryotic ancestors remains an enigma, it has become clear that the root of eukaryotes lies among a group of prokaryotes known as archaea. The recent identification of newly described archaea belonging to the Asgard superphylum, including Lokiarchaeota and Thorarchaeota, revealed a group of prokaryotes containing many proteins and genetic sequences that are otherwise found only in eukaryotes. Thijs Ettema and colleagues extend the search for eukaryotic roots by describing further additions to the Asgard superphylum: the Odinarchaeota and Heimdallarchaeota. The new Asgard genomes encode homologues of several components of eukaryotic membrane-trafficking machineries, suggesting that the archaeal ancestor of eukaryotes was well equipped to evolve the complex cellular features that are characteristic of eukaryotic cells.

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