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Trends Microbiol. 2002 Jan;10(1):31-8.

The molecular ecology of microbial eukaryotes unveils a hidden world.

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Université Pierre et Marie Curie, UMR 7622, 9, quai St Bernard, 75005 Paris, France.


In spite of the great success of small-subunit ribosomal RNA (SSU rRNA)-based studies for the analysis of environmental prokaryotic diversity, this molecular approach has seldom been applied to microbial eukaryotes. Recent molecular surveys of the smallest eukaryotic planktonic fractions at different oceanic surface regions and in deep-sea Antarctic samples revealed an astonishing protist diversity. Many of the phylotypes found in the photic region affiliate with photosynthetic groups that are known to contain picoeukaryotic representatives in the range 1-2 microm. Surprisingly, a vast diversity of presumably heterotrophic or mixotrophic lineages is also found. Among these, several novel lineages of heterokonts, and a large diversity of alveolates clustering in two major groups (Groups I and II), are present at all depths in the water column. Many of these new phylotypes appear biogeographically ubiquitous. These initial studies suggest that a wide diversity of small eukaryotes remains to be discovered not only in the ocean but also in other environments. For both ecology and evolutionary studies, it is predicted that environmental molecular identification of eukaryotes will have a profound impact in the immediate future.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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