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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Mar 28;97(7):3304-8.

An archaeal genomic signature.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.
U IL, Urbana-Champaign


Comparisons of complete genome sequences allow the most objective and comprehensive descriptions possible of a lineage's evolution. This communication uses the completed genomes from four major euryarchaeal taxa to define a genomic signature for the Euryarchaeota and, by extension, the Archaea as a whole. The signature is defined in terms of the set of protein-encoding genes found in at least two diverse members of the euryarchaeal taxa that function uniquely within the Archaea; most signature proteins have no recognizable bacterial or eukaryal homologs. By this definition, 351 clusters of signature proteins have been identified. Functions of most proteins in this signature set are currently unknown. At least 70% of the clusters that contain proteins from all the euryarchaeal genomes also have crenarchaeal homologs. This conservative set, which appears refractory to horizontal gene transfer to the Bacteria or the Eukarya, would seem to reflect the significant innovations that were unique and fundamental to the archaeal "design fabric." Genomic protein signature analysis methods may be extended to characterize the evolution of any phylogenetically defined lineage. The complete set of protein clusters for the archaeal genomic signature is presented as supplementary material (see the PNAS web site,

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