Metagenomics and phylogenomics approaches to reconstruct novel genomes of members of the DPANN archaea and disentangle their evolution history

SNIC 2018/3-106


SNAC Medium

Principal Investigator:

Anja Spang


Uppsala universitet

Start Date:


End Date:


Primary Classification:

10615: Evolutionary Biology

Secondary Classification:

10606: Microbiology (medical to be 30109 and agricultural to be 40302)

Tertiary Classification:

10610: Bioinformatics and Systems Biology (methods development to be 10203)



Profound advances in culture-independent methods and sequencing technologies have revolutionized the field of microbial ecology and evolution and opened a window onto the vast microbial dark matter surrounding us. This diversity includes many novel bacterial lineages as well as a large number of novel phyla belonging to a much less studied prokaryotic group - the Archaea. Archaea comprise a significant part of the microbial biomass on Earth and perform important roles in biogeochemical nutrient cycles. Additionally, archaeal genomes hold fundamental insights into the evolution of life on Earth and in particular the origin of eukaryotes as demonstrated recently by our research team with the discovery of Lokiarchaeota. Excitingly, metagenomic sequences have unveiled the existence of an additional novel and potentially deep-branching archaeal superphylum - the DPANN. This group seems to be extraordinarily diverse and includes the previously known ultra-small and symbiotic archaeum Nanoarchaeum equitans. However, so far we know very little about this enigmatic group of Archaea. The overall aim of this project, which is funded by a VR-starting grant from the Swedish Research council is to investigate the genomes of novel DPANN archaea, to gain new insights into symbiosis in Archaea, the evolution of archaeal phylogenetic and metabolic diversity as well as the metabolism in the earliest transitions in the Tree of Life. For this purpose, I will among others heavily rely on the use of recent, next generation sequencing methodologies, in silico bioinformatic and comparative genomic techniques, which necessitates access to a powerful server for running computational or memory intensive analyses.