In DepthBiology

Tentacled microbe hints at how simple cells became complex

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Science  16 Aug 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6454, pp. 631
DOI: 10.1126/science.365.6454.631

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Summary

After 12 years of dogged effort, a team in Japan has grown a single-celled organism from seafloor mud that it says could explain how simple microbes evolved into eukaryotes—organisms with complex, nucleated cells, such as the group that includes animals, plants, and ourselves. The microbe sports unusual branched appendages that may have enabled an ancestral version with similar tentacles to corral and envelop the bacteria that gave rise to mitochondria, the energy-producing organelles characteristic of eukaryotic cells. The tree of life has three major branches: eukaryotes, bacteria, and archaea, the latter of which both lack nuclei, mitochondria, and internal membranes. Biologists have long debated the origins of those branches and this microbe, an Asgard archaeon, suggests how an archaeon may have given rise to eukaryotes. Others disagree with this scenario. Still, most researchers are excited about studying this newly cultured microbe.

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