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Asgard archaea are diverse, ubiquitous, and transcriptionally active microbes

By Mingwei Cai, Yang Liu, Zhichao Zhou, Yuchun Yang, Jie Pan, Ji-Dong Gu, Meng Li

Posted 23 Jul 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/374165

Asgard is a newly proposed archaeal superphylum. Phylogenetic position of Asgard archaea and its relationships to the origin of eukaryotes is attracting increasingly research interest. However, in-depth knowledge of their diversity, distribution, and activity of Asgard archaea remains limited. Here, we used phylogenetic analysis to cluster the publicly available Asgard archaeal 16S rRNA gene sequences into 13 subgroups, including five previously unknown subgroups. These lineages were widely distributed in anaerobic environments, with the majority of 16S rRNA gene sequences (92%) originating from sediment habitats. Co-occurrence analysis revealed potential relationships between Asgard, Bathyarchaeota, and Marine Benthic Group D archaea. Genomic analysis suggested that Asgard archaea are potentially mixotrophic microbes with divergent metabolic capabilities. Importantly, metatranscriptomics confirmed the versatile lifestyles of Lokiarchaeota and Thorarchaeota, which can fix CO2 using the tetrahydromethanopterin Wood-Ljungdahl pathway, perform acetogenesis, and degrade organic matters. Overall, this study broadens the understandings of Asgard archaea ecology, and also provides the first evidence to support a transcriptionally active mixotrophic lifestyle of Asgard archaea, shedding light on the potential roles of these microorganisms in the global biogeochemical cycling.

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