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Keywords:

  • origin of life;
  • prebiotic environment;
  • last universal common ancestor;
  • aerobic ancestor of eukaryotes;
  • respiration-early hypothesis;
  • ancestral sequences;
  • oxyphobic index

Abstract

The use of an oxyphobic index (OI) based on the propensity of amino acids to enter more frequently the proteins of anaerobes makes it possible to make inferences on the environment in which the last universal common ancestor (LUCA) lived. The reconstruction of the ancestral sequences of proteins using a method based on maximum likelihood and their attribution by means of the OI to the set of aerobe or anaerobe sequences has led to the following conclusions: the LUCA was an anaerobic ‘organism’, as were the ancestors of Archaea and Bacteria, whereas the ancestor of Eukarya was an aerobe. These observations seem to falsify the hypothesis that the LUCA was an aerobe and help to identify better the environment in which the first organisms lived.