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Published March 31, 2017 | Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

On the origins of oxygenic photosynthesis and aerobic respiration in Cyanobacteria


The origin of oxygenic photosynthesis in Cyanobacteria led to the rise of oxygen on Earth ~2.3 billion years ago, profoundly altering the course of evolution by facilitating the development of aerobic respiration and complex multicellular life. Here we report the genomes of 41 uncultured organisms related to the photosynthetic Cyanobacteria (class Oxyphotobacteria), including members of the class Melainabacteria and a new class of Cyanobacteria (class Sericytochromatia) that is basal to the Melainabacteria and Oxyphotobacteria. All members of the Melainabacteria and Sericytochromatia lack photosynthetic machinery, indicating that phototrophy was not an ancestral feature of the Cyanobacteria and that Oxyphotobacteria acquired the genes for photosynthesis relatively late in cyanobacterial evolution. We show that all three classes independently acquired aerobic respiratory complexes, supporting the hypothesis that aerobic respiration evolved after oxygenic photosynthesis.

Additional Information

© 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science. 10 November 2016; accepted 14 February 2017. We thank J. Daly for assistance with genome binning and M. Chuvochina for assistance with etymology. This study was supported by a Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award (DP120103498) and an Australian Laureate Fellowship (FL150100038) from the Australian Research Council. J.H. was supported by an Agouron Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship. W.W.F. acknowledges the support of NASA Exobiology award no. NNX16AJ57G, the Agouron Institute, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Sequencing data have been deposited at the National Center for Biotechnology Information under accession numbers PRJNA348149, PRJNA348150, PRJNA348151, and PRJNA348152.

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