Quantitative estimates of the gene complement of the last common ancestor of all extant organisms, that is, the cenancestor, may be hindered by ancient horizontal gene transfer events and polyphyletic gene losses, as well as by biases in genome databases and methodological artifacts. Nevertheless, most reports agree that the last common ancestor resembled extant prokaryotes. A significant number of the highly conserved genes are sequences involved in the synthesis, degradation, and binding of RNA, including transcription and translation. Although the gene complement of the cenancestor includes sequences that may have originated in different epochs, the extraordinary conservation of RNA-related sequences supports the hypothesis that the last common ancestor was an evolutionary outcome of the so-called RNA/protein world. The available evidence suggests that the cenancestor was not a hyperthermophile, but it is currently not possible to assess its ecological niche or its mode of energy acquisition and carbon sources.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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