Bacterial Origin and Reductive Evolution of the CPR Group

Rijja Hussain Bokhari, Nooreen Amirjan, Hyeonsoo Jeong, Kyung Mo Kim, Gustavo Caetano-Anollés, Arshan Nasir, Eric Bapteste

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The candidate phyla radiation (CPR) is a proposed subdivision within the bacterial domain comprising several candidate phyla. CPR organisms are united by small genome and physical sizes, lack several metabolic enzymes, and populate deep branches within the bacterial subtree of life. These features raise intriguing questions regarding their origin and mode of evolution. In this study, we performed a comparative and phylogenomic analysis to investigate CPR origin and evolution. Unlike previous gene/protein sequence-based reports of CPR evolution, we used protein domain superfamilies classified by protein structure databases to resolve the evolutionary relationships of CPR with non-CPR bacteria, Archaea, Eukarya, and viruses. Across all supergroups, CPR shared maximum superfamilies with non-CPR bacteria and were placed as deep branching bacteria in most phylogenomic trees. CPR contributed 1.22% of new superfamilies to bacteria including the ribosomal protein L19e and encoded four core superfamilies that are likely involved in cell-to-cell interaction and establishing episymbiotic lifestyles. Although CPR and non-CPR bacterial proteomes gained common superfamilies over the course of evolution, CPR and Archaea had more common losses. These losses mostly involved metabolic superfamilies. In fact, phylogenies built from only metabolic protein superfamilies separated CPR and non-CPR bacteria. These findings indicate that CPR are bacterial organisms that have probably evolved in an Archaea-like manner via the early loss of metabolic functions. We also discovered that phylogenies built from metabolic and informational superfamilies gave contrasting views of the groupings among Archaea, Bacteria, and Eukarya, which add to the current debate on the evolutionary relationships among superkingdoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-121
Number of pages19
JournalGenome biology and evolution
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 17 2020


  • candidate phyla radiation
  • phylogenetics
  • protein structure
  • reductive evolution
  • tree of life

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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