Pore timing: the evolutionary origins of the nucleus and nuclear pore complex

Mark C. Field (Lead / Corresponding author), Michael P. Rout (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
181 Downloads (Pure)


The name "eukaryote" is derived from Greek, meaning "true kernel", and describes the domain of organisms whose cells have a nucleus. The nucleus is thus the defining feature of eukaryotes and distinguishes them from prokaryotes (Archaea and Bacteria), whose cells lack nuclei. Despite this, we discuss the intriguing possibility that organisms on the path from the first eukaryotic common ancestor to the last common ancestor of all eukaryotes did not possess a nucleus at all-at least not in a form we would recognize today-and that the nucleus in fact arrived relatively late in the evolution of eukaryotes. The clues to this alternative evolutionary path lie, most of all, in recent discoveries concerning the structure of the nuclear pore complex. We discuss the evidence for such a possibility and how this impacts our views of eukaryote origins and how eukaryotes have diversified subsequent to their last common ancestor.

Original languageEnglish
Article number369
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2019


  • eukaryogenesis
  • molecular evolution
  • nuclear pore complex
  • vesicle coats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)


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