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Commun Integr Biol. 2011 Nov 1;4(6):664-7.

An archaeal origin for the actin cytoskeleton: Implications for eukaryogenesis.

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Department of Molecular Evolution, Evolutionary Biology Center, Uppsala University; Uppsala, Sweden.


A hallmark of the eukaryotic cell is the actin cytoskeleton, involved in a wide array of processes ranging from shape determination and phagocytosis to intracellular transport and cytokinesis. Recently, we reported the discovery of an actin-based cytoskeleton also in Archaea. The archaeal actin ortholog, Crenactin, was shown to belong to a conserved operon, Arcade (actin-related cytoskeleton in Archaea involved in shape determination), encoding an additional set of cytoskeleton-associated proteins. Here, we elaborate on the implications of these findings for the evolutionary relation between archaea and eukaryotes, with particular focus on the possibility that eukaryotic actin and actin-related proteins have evolved from an ancestral archaeal actin gene. Archaeal actin could thus have played an important role in cellular processes essential for the origin and early evolution of the eukaryotic lineage. Further exploration of uncharacterized archaeal lineages is necessary to find additional missing pieces in the evolutionary trajectory that ultimately gave rise to present-day organisms.


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