Analysis of phenetic trees based on metabolic capabilites across the three domains of life

Daniel Aguilar, Francesc X. Aviles, Enrique Querol, Michael J.E. Sternberg

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29 Citations (Scopus)


Here, we used data of complete genomes to study comparatively the metabolism of different species. We built phenetic trees based on the enzymatic functions present in different parts of metabolism. Seven broad metabolic classes, comprising a total of 69 metabolic pathways, were comparatively analyzed for 27 fully sequenced organisms of the domains Eukarya, Bacteria and Archaea. Phylogenetic profiles based on the presence/absence of enzymatic functions for each metabolic class were determined and distance matrices for all the organisms were then derived from the profiles. Unrooted phenetic trees based upon the matrices revealed the distribution of the organisms according to their metabolic capabilities, reflecting the ecological pressures and adaptations that those species underwent during their evolution. We found that organisms that are closely related in phylogenetic terms could be distantly related metabolically and that the opposite is also true. For example, obligate bacterial pathogens were usually grouped together in our metabolic trees, demonstrating that obligate pathogens share common metabolic features regardless of their diverse phylogenetic origins. The branching order of proteobacteria often did not match their classical phylogenetic classification and Gram-positive bacteria showed diverse metabolic affinities. Archaea were found to be metabolically as distant from free-living bacteria as from eukaryotes, and sometimes were placed close to the metabolically highly specialized group of obligate bacterial pathogens. Metabolic trees represent an integrative approach for the comparison of the evolution of the metabolism and its correlation with the evolution of the genome, helping to find new relationships in the tree of life. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)491-512
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jul 2004


  • KEGG, Kyoto encyclopedia of genes and genomes
  • ORFs, open reading frames
  • comparative genomics
  • functional genomics
  • metabolic databases
  • metabolic pathways
  • phylogenetic profiles


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