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FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2011 Jul;35(4):577-608. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6976.2011.00265.x. Epub 2011 Mar 7.

Model organisms for genetics in the domain Archaea: methanogens, halophiles, Thermococcales and Sulfolobales.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA.


The tree of life is split into three main branches: eukaryotes, bacteria, and archaea. Our knowledge of eukaryotic and bacteria cell biology has been built on a foundation of studies in model organisms, using the complementary approaches of genetics and biochemistry. Archaea have led to some exciting discoveries in the field of biochemistry, but archaeal genetics has been slow to get off the ground, not least because these organisms inhabit some of the more inhospitable places on earth and are therefore believed to be difficult to culture. In fact, many species can be cultivated with relative ease and there has been tremendous progress in the development of genetic tools for both major archaeal phyla, the Euryarchaeota and the Crenarchaeota. There are several model organisms available for methanogens, halophiles, and thermophiles; in the latter group, there are genetic systems for Sulfolobales and Thermococcales. In this review, we present the advantages and disadvantages of working with each archaeal group, give an overview of their different genetic systems, and direct the neophyte archaeologist to the most appropriate model organism.

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