Spatial separation of ribosomes and DNA in Asgard archaeal cells

Burak Avcı*, Jakob Brandt, Dikla Nachmias, Natalie Elia, Mads Albertsen, Thijs J.G. Ettema, Andreas Schramm*, Kasper Urup Kjeldsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The origin of the eukaryotic cell is a major open question in biology. Asgard archaea are the closest known prokaryotic relatives of eukaryotes, and their genomes encode various eukaryotic signature proteins, indicating some elements of cellular complexity prior to the emergence of the first eukaryotic cell. Yet, microscopic evidence to demonstrate the cellular structure of uncultivated Asgard archaea in the environment is thus far lacking. We used primer-free sequencing to retrieve 715 almost full-length Loki- and Heimdallarchaeota 16S rRNA sequences and designed novel oligonucleotide probes to visualize their cells in marine sediments (Aarhus Bay, Denmark) using catalyzed reporter deposition-fluorescence in situ hybridization (CARD-FISH). Super-resolution microscopy revealed 1–2 µm large, coccoid cells, sometimes occurring as aggregates. Remarkably, the DNA staining was spatially separated from ribosome-originated FISH signals by 50–280 nm. This suggests that the genomic material is condensed and spatially distinct in a particular location and could indicate compartmentalization or membrane invagination in Asgard archaeal cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)606-610
JournalISME Journal
Issue number2
Early online date31 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022


Dive into the research topics of 'Spatial separation of ribosomes and DNA in Asgard archaeal cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this