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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2007 Jul;44(1):255-66. Epub 2006 Nov 15.

Global eukaryote phylogeny: Combined small- and large-subunit ribosomal DNA trees support monophyly of Rhizaria, Retaria and Excavata.

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Unité d'Ecologie, Systématique et Evolution, UMR CNRS 8079, Université Paris-Sud, Orsay Cedex, France. <>


Resolution of the phylogenetic relationships among the major eukaryotic groups is one of the most important problems in evolutionary biology that is still only partially solved. This task was initially addressed using a single marker, the small-subunit ribosomal DNA (SSU rDNA), although in recent years it has been shown that it does not contain enough phylogenetic information to robustly resolve global eukaryotic phylogeny. This has prompted the use of multi-gene analyses, especially in the form of long concatenations of numerous conserved protein sequences. However, this approach is severely limited by the small number of taxa for which such a large number of protein sequences is available today. We have explored the alternative approach of using only two markers but a large taxonomic sampling, by analysing a combination of SSU and large-subunit (LSU) rDNA sequences. This strategy allows also the incorporation of sequences from non-cultivated protists, e.g., Radiozoa (=radiolaria minus Phaeodarea). We provide the first LSU rRNA sequences for Heliozoa, Apusozoa (both Apusomonadida and Ancyromonadida), Cercozoa and Radiozoa. Our Bayesian and maximum likelihood analyses for 91 eukaryotic combined SSU+LSU sequences yielded much stronger support than hitherto for the supergroup Rhizaria (Cercozoa plus Radiozoa plus Foraminifera) and several well-recognised groups and also for other problematic clades, such as the Retaria (Radiozoa plus Foraminifera) and, with more moderate support, the Excavata. Within opisthokonts, the combined tree strongly confirms that the filose amoebae Nuclearia are sisters to Fungi whereas other Choanozoa are sisters to animals. The position of some bikont taxa, notably Heliozoa and Apusozoa, remains unresolved. However, our combined trees suggest a more deeply diverging position for Ancyromonas, and perhaps also Apusomonas, than for other bikonts, suggesting that apusozoan zooflagellates may be central for understanding the early evolution of this huge eukaryotic group. Multiple protein sequences will be needed fully to resolve basal bikont phylogeny. Nonetheless, our results suggest that combined SSU+LSU rDNA phylogenies can help to resolve several ambiguous regions of the eukaryotic tree and identify key taxa for subsequent multi-gene analyses.

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