Lokiarchaeota is the ‘starter-kit’ for Eukaryotes cellular and genomic complexity

Don’t get confused with the name ‘LOKI’, it is a microbe not Thor’s brother. In a study published this week in the widely read science journal Nature, researchers have claimed that they have discovered a new microbe that serves as the missing link in the evolution of complex cells. The said study was carried out by a team of researchers representing Sweden’s Uppsala University.

Through this study, researchers have presented a completely new point of view about the evolution of complex cells forming plants, fungi, animals and humans from simple microbes billions of years back.

It’s a known fact that cells are the structural and functional units of all forms of life on Earth. However, all cells are not same. While the cells constituting bacteria and other forms of microbes are simple and small, the ones constituting the visible living beings such as humans and animals are usually complex in nature.

There has always been a mystery surrounding the origin of these complex cells. However, now it appears that the researchers at the Uppsala University have solved the mystery. A new group of microbes discovered by them is serving as the missing link in this evolutionary transition.

During this study, researchers from the Swedish University were ably supported by researchers representing the universities in Vienna (Austria) and Bergen (Norway). Together they have discovered a new group of Archaea called the Lokiarchaeota; the creature, however, is mostly referred to as Loki. The research team has identified Loki as a missing link in the formation of eukaryotes.

For those who don’t know: the Archaeas are single-celled prokaryotes, or microbes that don’t have any cell nucleus or other membrane-bound organelles within their cells.


The study was led by Thijs Ettema of Uppsala University’s Department of Cell & Molecular Biology. According to him, due several missing links, the mystery surrounding the formation of eukaryotic cells is extremely complex. He added that he and his colleagues expected that Loki will be revealing some more missing links; but, still they were surprised to see the results.

Ettema has described the data obtained from this new study as something “spectacular”. When studying the genome, he and his team came to know that Loki is the exact intermediate form between simple cells and complex cells.