The Archaeal Roots of the Eukaryotic Dynamic Actin Cytoskeleton

Courtney W. Stairs, Thijs J.G. Ettema*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveyAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

It is generally well accepted that eukaryotes evolved from the symbiosis of an archaeal host cell and an alphaproteobacterium, a union that ultimately gave rise to the complex, eukaryotic cells we see today. However, the catalyst of this merger, the exact nature of the cellular biology of either partner, or how this event spawned the vast majority of complex life on Earth remains enigmatic. In recent years, the discovery of the Asgard archaea, the closest known prokaryotic relatives of eukaryotes, has been monumental for addressing these unanswered questions. These prokaryotes seem to encode an unprecedented number of genes related to features typically descriptive of eukaryotes, including intracellular trafficking, vesicular transport and a dynamic actin-based cytoskeleton. Collectively, these features imply that the Asgard archaea have the potential for cellular complexity previously thought to be unique to eukaryotes. Here, we review the most recent advances in our understanding of the archaeal cytoskeleton and its implications for determining the origin of eukaryotic cellular complexity. The transition from prokaryotic to eukaryotic cells represents a cornerstone event in the evolution of life on Earth. The actin cytoskeleton is one of many key features of eukaryotic cells. Here, Stairs and Ettema review the most recent advances in our understanding of the archaeal cytoskeleton and its implications for the origins of eukaryotes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R521-R526
JournalCurrent Biology
Volume30
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2020

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