Genomic exploration of the diversity, ecology, and evolution of the archaeal domain of life

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Abstract

About 40 years ago, Archaea were recognized as a major prokaryotic domain of life besides Bacteria. Recently, cultivation-independent sequencing methods have produced a wealth of genomic data for previously unidentified archaeal lineages, several of which appear to represent newly revealed branches in the tree of life. Analyses of some recently obtained genomes have uncovered previously unknown metabolic traits and provided insights into the evolution of archaea and their relationship to eukaryotes. On the basis of our current understanding, much archaeal diversity still defies genomic exploration. Efforts to obtain and study genomes and enrichment cultures of uncultivated microbial lineages will likely further expand our knowledge about archaeal phylogenetic and metabolic diversity and their cell biology and ecological function.

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