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PLoS One. 2009;4(4):e5021. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005021. Epub 2009 Apr 7.

A complex cell division machinery was present in the last common ancestor of eukaryotes.

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Laboratoire de Chimie Bacterienne, UPR CNRS, Marseille, France.



The midbody is a transient complex structure containing proteins involved in cytokinesis. Up to now, it has been described only in Metazoa. Other eukaryotes present a variety of structures implied in the last steps of cell division, such as the septum in fungi or the phragmoplast in plants. However, it is unclear whether these structures are homologous (derive from a common ancestral structure) or analogous (have distinct evolutionary origins). Recently, the proteome of the hamster midbody has been characterized and 160 proteins identified.


Using phylogenomic approaches, we show here that nearly all of these 160 proteins (95%) are conserved across metazoan lineages. More surprisingly, we show that a large part of the mammalian midbody components (91 proteins) were already present in the last common ancestor of all eukaryotes (LECA) and were most likely involved in the construction of a complex multi-protein assemblage acting in cell division.


Our results indicate that the midbodies of non-mammalian metazoa are likely very similar to the mammalian one and that the ancestor of Metazoa possessed a nearly modern midbody. Moreover, our analyses support the hypothesis that the midbody and the structures involved in cytokinesis in other eukaryotes derive from a large and complex structure present in LECA, likely involved in cytokinesis. This is an additional argument in favour of the idea of a complex ancestor for all contemporary eukaryotes.

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