Neomura is a speculative clade composed of the two domains of life of Archaea and Eukarya. The group was first proposed by Thomas Cavalier-Smith and its name means "new walls"; so called because it is thought to have evolved from Bacteria, and one of the major changes was the replacement of peptidoglycan cell walls with other glycoproteins. The adjectival form is Neomuran, and a single individual from the group is called a Neomuran.
The Neomura are a very diverse group, containing all of the multicellular species, as well as all of the most extremophilic
species. But they all share certain molecular characteristics. All Neomurans have histones
to help with chromosome
packaging, and most have introns
. All use the molecule methionine
as the initiator amino acid
for protein synthesis
(Bacteria use formylmethionine
). Finally, all Neomurans use several kinds of RNA polymerase
, whereas Bacteria use only one.
When Carl Woese
first published his three-domain system
, it was believed that the domains Bacteria
, Archaea, and Eukarya were equally old and equally related on the tree of life. However certain evidence began to suggest that Eukarya and Archaea were more closely related to each other than either was to Bacteria. This evidence included the common use of cholesterols
, which are complex molecules not found in most bacteria. So, it was thought that there were two branches of life: Bacteria, and Neomura.
But recently, Cavalier-Smith showed evidence that Neomura evolved from Bacteria. The strongest evidence is that all known eukaryotes have mitochondria, which almost certainly evolved through endosymbiosis with an alpha-proteobacteria (a highly evolved group of bacteria). If Eukarya is as old as Bacteria, it almost certainly would have branched during the many millions of years it took for Bacteria to evolve the aerobic respiration performed by mitochondria, and some eukaryotes would have evolved without mitochondria.
A smaller but important piece of evidence is that the cholesterols and proteasomes found in Neomura are also found in Actinobacteria, perhaps the most highly evolved Bacteria. Molecules of this complexity are unlikely to evolve more than once in separate branches, so either there was a horizontal transfer of those two pathways, or Neomura evolved from this particular branch of the bacterial tree. This theory of Neomuran evolution is shown in the image to the right.
- Thomas Cavalier-Smith, The origin of eukaryote and archaebacterial cells, Ann NY Acad Sci 503: 17–54 (1987)
- Thomas Cavalier-Smith, The neomuran origin of archaebacteria, the negibacterial root of the universal tree and bacterial megaclassification, International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology 52: 7–76 (2002)
- Thomas Cavalier-Smith, Rooting the tree of life by transition analyses. Biol Direct. 2006; 1: 19. doi: 10.1186/1745-6150-1-19.
- Skophammer RG, Servin JA, Herbold CW, Lake JA. Evidence for a gram-positive, eubacterial root of the tree of life. Mol Biol Evol. 2007 Aug;24(8):1761-8.