Indexed on: 05 Feb '14Published on: 05 Feb '14Published in: Archaea (Vancouver, B.C.)
Reconstructing the evolutionary history of modern species is a difficult problem complicated by the conceptual and technical limitations of phylogenetic tree building methods. Here, we propose a comparative proteomic and functionomic inferential framework for genome evolution that allows resolving the tripartite division of cells and sketching their history. Evolutionary inferences were derived from the spread of conserved molecular features, such as molecular structures and functions, in the proteomes and functionomes of contemporary organisms. Patterns of use and reuse of these traits yielded significant insights into the origins of cellular diversification. Results uncovered an unprecedented strong evolutionary association between Bacteria and Eukarya while revealing marked evolutionary reductive tendencies in the archaeal genomic repertoires. The effects of nonvertical evolutionary processes (e.g., HGT, convergent evolution) were found to be limited while reductive evolution and molecular innovation appeared to be prevalent during the evolution of cells. Our study revealed a strong vertical trace in the history of proteins and associated molecular functions, which was reliably recovered using the comparative genomics approach. The trace supported the existence of a stem line of descent and the very early appearance of Archaea as a diversified superkingdom, but failed to uncover a hidden canonical pattern in which Bacteria was the first superkingdom to deploy superkingdom-specific structures and functions.