Technological watch

Tracing back variations in archaeal ESCRT-based cell division to protein domain architectures

AbstractThe Endosomal Sorting Complex Required for Transport (ESCRT) system is a multi-protein machinery that is involved in cell division of both Eukaryotes and Archaea. This spread across domains of life suggests that a precursor ESCRT machinery existed already at an evolutionary early stage of life, making it a promising candidate for the (re)construction of a minimal cell division machinery. There are, however, only few experimental data about ESCRT machineries in Archaea, due to high technical challenges in cultivation and microscopy. Here, we analyse the proteins of ESCRT machineries in archaea bioinformatically on a protein domain level, to enable mechanistical comparison without such challenging experiments. First, we infer that there are at least three different cell division mechanisms utilizing ESCRT proteins in archaea, probably similar in their constriction mechanisms but different in membrane tethering. Second, we show that ESCRT proteins in the archaeal super-phylum Asgard are highly similar to eukaryotic ESCRT proteins, strengthening the recently developed idea that all Eukaryotes descended from archaea. Third, we reconstruct a plausible evolutionary development of ESCRT machineries and suggest that a simple ESCRT-based constriction machinery existed in the last archaeal common ancestor. These findings not only give very interesting insights into the likely evolution of cell division in Archaea and Eukaryotes, but also offer new research avenues by suggesting hypothesis-driven experiments for both, cell biology and bottom-up synthetic biology.

Publication date: 31/03/2022

Author: Béla P. Frohn,  Tobias Härtel,  Jürgen Cox,  Petra Schwille




This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870292.