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Trends Microbiol. 2005 Jun;13(6):256-61.

Does the 'Ring of Life' ring true?

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  • 1Canadian Institute for Advanced Research Program in Evolutionary Biology, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Dalhousie University, 5850 College Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 1X5, Canada. eric.bapteste@dal.ca

Abstract

In a recent stimulating paper, Rivera and Lake applied a new phylogenetic method to study the evolution of genomes, which challenges the classical representation of the Tree of Life. Acknowledging the evolutionary importance of lateral gene transfer, they used the conditioned genome approach to reconstruct the Tree of Life, and in the end proposed a Ring of Life. They explained that the Ring of Life structure is a result of a single fusion event between two prokaryotic genomes at the base of the eukaryotic tree, probably between the ancestors of a photosynthetic bacterium and an archaeon. Because this constitutes an important conclusion with regards to the evolutionary process and origin of the eukaryotic cell, their work deserves further attention before these conclusions can be accepted. Here we question the reconstruction and the meaning of the Ring of Life. In addition to general problems associated with gene-content-based phylogenetic analyses, we discuss some implicit premises and potential weaknesses of the conditioned genome method and conclude that, although Rivera and Lake's conclusions might be right, they have not been established by their current approach.

PMID:
15936656
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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