Prokaryote/Eukaryote Dichotomy and Bacteria/Archaea/Eukarya Domains: Two Inseparable Concepts

  • Jean-Claude BertrandEmail author
  • Pierre Caumette
  • Philippe Normand
  • Bernard Ollivier
  • Télesphore Sime-Ngando


The various schemes proposed to classify microorganisms in the living world have long been subject of heated debates. The classical dichotomic distinction between Prokaryotae (cells without nucleus) and Eukaryotae (cells with nucleus) functional and phenotypic categories was deeply changed by rRNA gene-based analysis that divided the living world into three phylogenetic domains: the Bacteria, the Archaea (originally Archaebacteria), and the Eukarya. In this chapter, we review the terms of this debate between the prokaryotic/eukaryotic functional and phenotypic dichotomy and the 16S/18S phylogenetic dichotomy that separates prokaryotes into two distinct domains. The specific characteristics that emphasize the organizational and functional complexity of prokaryotes and justify maintaining this terminology are discussed. We conclude that the organizational and functional concept of a prokaryotes/eukaryotes dichotomy can be easily supplemented by the phylogenetic concept Bacteria/Archaea/Eukarya. The two concepts are not irreconcilable but complementary, resulting in a consensual proposal that integrates both phenotypic and genotypic criteria.


Anammoxosome Bacteria/Archaea/Eukarya domains Horizontal gene transfers Multicellularity and differentiation Organelles in prokaryotes Planctomycetes Prokaryote/eukaryote dichotomy Prokaryotic cytoskeleton Prokaryotic membranes Transcription-translation coupling 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean-Claude Bertrand
    • 1
    Email author
  • Pierre Caumette
    • 2
  • Philippe Normand
    • 3
  • Bernard Ollivier
    • 4
  • Télesphore Sime-Ngando
    • 5
  1. 1.Unité Mixte de Service, UMS 3470, OSU PythéasAix Marseille UniversitéMarseille CedexFrance
  2. 2.Institut des Sciences Analytiques et de Physico-Chimie pour l’Environnement et les Matériaux, UMR 5254, CNRSUniversité de Pau et des Pays de l’AdourPauFrance
  3. 3.Laboratoire d’Ecologie Microbienne, UMR 5557Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1VilleurbanneFrance
  4. 4.Aix Marseille Université, Université de Toulon, CNRS, IRD, MIO UM 110MarseilleFrance
  5. 5.Laboratoire “Microorganismes: Génome et Environnement” (LMGE), CNRS UMR 6023Université Clermont AuvergneClermont-FerrandFrance

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