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Highly diverse Asgard archaea participate in organic matter degradation in coastal sediments

By Mingwei Cai, Yang Liu, Xiuran Yin, Zhichao Zhou, Michael W. Friedrich, Tim Richter-Heitmann, Rolf Nimzyk, Ajinkya Kulkarni, Xiaowen Wang, Wenjin Li, Jie Pan, Yuchun Yang, Ji-Dong Gu, Meng Li

Posted 29 Nov 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/858530 (published DOI: 10.1007/s11427-020-1679-1)

Asgard is an archaeal superphylum that might hold the key to understand the origin of eukaryotes, but its diversity and ecological roles remain poorly understood. Here, we reconstructed 15 metagenomic-assembled genomes (MAGs) from coastal sediments covering most known Asgard archaea and a novel group, which is proposed as a new Asgard phylum named as the 'Gerdarchaeota'. Genomic analyses predict that Gerdarchaeota are facultative anaerobes in utilizing both organic and inorganic carbon. Unlike their closest relatives Heimdallarchaeota, Gerdarchaeota have genes encoding for cellulase and enzymes involving in the tetrahydromethanopterin-based Wood-Ljungdahl pathway. Transcriptomic evidence showed that all known Asgard archaea are capable of degrading organic matter, including peptides, amino acids and fatty acids, in different ecological niches in sediments. Overall, this study broadens the diversity of the mysterious Asgard archaea and provides evidence for their ecological roles in coastal sediments.

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