Monophyly of Archaeplastida supergroup and relationships among its lineages in the light of phylogenetic and phylogenomic studies. Are we close to a consensus?

Paweł Mackiewicz, Przemysław Gagat


One of the key evolutionary events on the scale of the biosphere was an endosymbiosis between a heterotrophic eukaryote and a cyanobacterium, resulting in a primary plastid. Such an organelle is characteristic of three eukaryotic lineages, glaucophytes, red algae and green plants. The three groups are usually united under the common name Archaeplastida or Plantae in modern taxonomic classifications, which indicates they are considered monophyletic. The methods generally used to verify this monophyly are phylogenetic analyses. In this article we review up-to-date results of such analyses and discussed their inconsistencies. Although phylogenies of plastid genes suggest a single primary endosymbiosis, which is assumed to mean a common origin of the Archaeplastida, different phylogenetic trees based on nuclear markers show monophyly, paraphyly, polyphyly or unresolved topologies of Archaeplastida hosts. The difficulties in reconstructing host cell relationships could result from stochastic and systematic biases in data sets, including different substitution rates and patterns, gene paralogy and horizontal/endosymbiotic gene transfer into eukaryotic lineages, which attract Archaeplastida in phylogenetic trees. Based on results to date, it is neither possible to confirm nor refute alternative evolutionary scenarios to a single primary endosymbiosis. Nevertheless, if trees supporting monophyly are considered, relationships inferred among Archaeplastida lineages can be discussed. Phylogenetic analyses based on nuclear genes clearly show the earlier divergence of glaucophytes from red algae and green plants. Plastid genes suggest a more complicated history, but at least some studies are congruent with this concept. Additional research involving more representatives of glaucophytes and many understudied lineages of Eukaryota can improve inferring phylogenetic relationships related to the Archaeplastida. In addition, alternative approaches not directly dependent on phylogenetic methods should be developed.


Archaeplastida; Glaucophyta; monophyly; phylogenomics; phylogenetic analyses; primary plastid; Rhodophyta; Viridiplantae

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