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Oxymonads are closely related to the Excavate Taxon Trimastix
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Dr Joel Dacks
Dacks JB, Silberman JD, Simpson AG, Moriya S, Kudo T, Ohkuma M, Redfield RJ
Molecular Biology and Evolution
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Despite intensive study in recent years, large-scale eukaryote phylogeny remains poorly resolved. This is particularly problematic among the groups considered to be potential early branches. In many recent systematic schemes for early eukaryotic evolution, the amitochondriate protists oxymonads and Trimastix have figured prominently, having been suggested as members of many of the putative deep-branching higher taxa. However, they have never before been proposed as close relatives of each other. We amplified, cloned, and sequenced small-subunit ribosomal RNA genes from the oxymonad Pyrsonympha and from several Trimastix isolates. Rigorous phylogenetic analyses indicate that these two protist groups are sister taxa and are not clearly related to any currently established eukaryotic lineages. This surprising result has important implications for our understanding of cellular evolution and high-level eukaryotic phylogeny. Given that Trimastix contains small, electron-dense bodies strongly suspected to be derived mitochondria, this study constitutes the best evidence to date that oxymonads are not primitively amitochondriate. Instead, Trimastix and oxymonads may be useful organisms for investigations into the evolution of the secondary amitochondriate condition. All higher taxa involving either oxymonads or Trimastix may require modification or abandonment. Affected groups include four contemporary taxa given the rank of phylum (Metamonada, Loukozoa, Trichozoa, Percolozoa), and the informal excavate taxa. A new "phylum-level" taxon may be warranted for oxymonads and Trimastix.
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