The extant core bacterial proteome is an archive of the origin of life



Genes consistently present in a clique of genomes, preferring the leading DNA strands are deemed persistent. The persistent bacterial proteome organises around intermediary and RNA metabolism, and RNA-related information transfer, with a significant contribution to compartmentalisation. Despite inevitable losses during evolution, the extant persistent proteome displays functions present early on. Proteins coded by genes staying clustered in a majority of genomes constitute a network of mutual attraction made up of three concentric circles. The outer one, mostly devoted to metabolism, breaks into small pieces and fades away. The second, more continuous, one organises around class I tRNA synthetases. The well-connected inner circle comprises the ribosome and information transfer. This reflects the progressive construction of cells, starting from the metabolism of coenzymes, nucleotides and fatty acids-related molecules. Subsequently, a core set of aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases scaffolded around RNA, connected to cell division machinery and organised metabolism around translation. This remarkable organisation reflects the evolution of life from small molecules metabolism to the RNA world, suggesting that extant microorganisms carry the marks of the ancient processes that created life. Further analysis suggests that RNA degradation, associated to the presence of iron, still plays a role in extant metabolism, including the evolution of genome structures.