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Adaptation to Environmental Temperature Is a Major Determinant of Molecular Evolutionary Rates in Archaea

Abstract : Methods to infer the ancestral conditions of life are commonly based on geological and paleontological analyses. Recently, several studies used genome sequences to gain information about past ecological conditions taking advantage of the property that the G+C and amino acid contents of bacterial and archaeal ribosomal DNA genes and proteins, respectively, are strongly influenced by the environmental temperature. The adaptation to optimal growth temperature (OGT) since the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA) over the universal tree of life was examined, and it was concluded that LUCA was likely to have been a mesophilic organism and that a parallel adaptation to high temperature occurred independently along the two lineages leading to the ancestors of Bacteria on one side and of Archaea and Eukarya on the other side. Here, we focus on Archaea to gain a precise view of the adaptation to OGT over time in this domain. It has been often proposed on the basis of indirect evidence that the last archaeal common ancestor was a hyperthermophilic organism. Moreover, many results showed the influence of environmental temperature on the evolutionary dynamics of archaeal genomes: Thermophilic organisms generally display lower evolutionary rates than mesophiles. However, to our knowledge, no study tried to explain the differences of evolutionary rates for the entire archaeal domain and to investigate the evolution of substitution rates over time. A comprehensive archaeal phylogeny and a non homogeneous model of the molecular evolutionary process allowed us to estimate ancestral base and amino acid compositions and OGTs at each internal node of the archaeal phylogenetic tree. The last archaeal common ancestor is predicted to have been hyperthermophilic and adaptations to cooler environments can be observed for extant mesophilic species. Furthermore, mesophilic species present both long branches and high variation of nucleotide and amino acid compositions since the last archaeal common ancestor. The increase of substitution rates observed in mesophilic lineages along all their branches can be interpreted as an ongoing adaptation to colder temperatures and to new metabolisms. We conclude that environmental temperature is a major factor that governs evolutionary rates in Archaea.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 1:49:11 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, July 20, 2021 - 5:20:05 PM

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M. Groussin, Manolo Gouy. Adaptation to Environmental Temperature Is a Major Determinant of Molecular Evolutionary Rates in Archaea. Molecular Biology and Evolution, Oxford University Press (OUP), 2011, 28, pp.2661-2674. ⟨10.1093/molbev/msr098⟩. ⟨hal-00697929⟩

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