Gustavo Caetano-Anolles

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Gustavo Caetano-Anollés
Prof Caetano-Anolles in Cape Town.jpg
Alma materNational University of La Plata
Known forRoot nodule research, genetic marker, silver stain, molecular evolution, phylogenomics
AwardsZuckerkandl Prize
Scientific career
FieldsComputational Biology Astrobiology Genomics
InstitutionsUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Gustavo Caetano-Anollés is Professor of Bioinformatics in the Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is an expert in the field of evolutionary and comparative genomics.


Studies and early researches

Caetano-Anolles obtained his doctorate in biochemistry at the National University of La Plata in Argentina in 1986. During his early career at Ohio State University and the University of Tennessee he studied the symbiosis between nitrogen-fixing root nodule-forming bacteria and legumes from different angles, exploring the role of bacterial attachment and chemotaxis and plant systemic signals that control nodule number. While in Tennessee he co-invented the technique of DNA amplification with arbitrary primers [see DNA amplification fingerprinting (DAF) and randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD)]. This technique generates fingerprints of nucleic acids and molecular markers useful for genome mapping and molecular ecology and evolution. He also developed widely used methods for the silver staining of DNA that are commercially available. He holds several US patents in molecular biology. He joined the faculty of the Department of Biology at the University of Oslo in 1998 and directed the laboratory of molecular ecology and evolution.

Since 2003 he is at the University of Illinois and is an affiliate of the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology. He received the Emile Zuckerkandl Prize in molecular evolution in 2002 and became University Scholar of the University of Illinois in 2010. His current research integrates structural biology, genomics and molecular evolution. He is particularly interested in evolution of macromolecular structure. His research group has recently reconstructed the history of the protein world using information in entire genomes, revealed the existence of a 'big bang' of protein domain combinations late in evolution,[1] traced evolution of proteins in biological networks (see the MANET database), uncovered the origin of modern biological networks in pathways of nucleotide metabolism,[2] and revealed important evolutionary reductive tendencies in the structural make up of proteins.[3]

A new virus theory

Recently, his group used genomic information to propose that viruses are derived from ancient cells and were the first lineage to arise from the last universal ancestor of life (LUCA).[4] The group also found Archaea was the first cellular lineage to arise in evolution[5][6] from a universal ancestor that was complex at the molecular[7] and cellular level.[8] His team is currently exploring the role of structure and organization in the coevolution of proteins and functional RNA (e.g., ribosomal and transfer RNA), including the origin and history of translation and the genetic code. Phylogenomic analysis of RNA and protein molecules that make up the massive ribosomal ensemble shows that the most ancient ribosomal RNA structure interacted with the most ancient ribosomal protein and that this triggered a coordinated accretion process that ultimately resulted in a functional ribosomal core, half-way in evolution of life and prior to cellular diversification.[9] These coevolutionary patterns challenge the ancient ‘RNA world’ hypothesis and place the rise of genetics late in evolution.[10]


Caetano-Anollés and his wife Gloria have two children, both of whom have been part of his research team. Gloria is a surgical nurse and worked in the thoracic surgery team of René Favaloro in Argentina and in the surgical department of the Baptist Hospital of East Tennessee.

Selected publications[edit]

  • Nasir A, Kim KM, Caetano-Anollés G (2012) Viral evolution. Primordial cellular origins and late adaptation to parasitism. Mobile Genetic Elements 2(5): 1-6.[11]
  • Kim KM, Win T, Jiang YY, Chen LL, Xiong M, Caetano-Anollés D, Zhang HY, Caetano-Anollés G (2012) Protein domain structure uncovers the origin of aerobic metabolism and the rise of planetary oxygen. Structure 20(1): 67-76.[12]
  • Kim KM, Caetano-Anollés G (2010) Emergence and evolution of modern molecular functions inferred from phylogenomic analysis of ontological data" Molecular Biology and Evolution 27(7) 1710-1733.
  • Caetano-Anollés G, Wang M, Mittenthal JE (2009) The origin, evolution and structure of the protein world. Biochemical Journal 417(3): 621-637.[13]
  • Sun FJ, Caetano-Anollés G (2008) Evolutionary patterns in the sequence and structure of transfer RNA: early origins of Archaea and viruses. PLoS Computational Biology 4(3): e1000018.[14]
  • Sun FJ, Caetano-Anollés G (2008) The origin and evolution of tRNA inferred from phylogenetic analysis of structure" Journal of Molecular Evolution 66(1) 21-35.
  • Wang M, Yafremava LS, Caetano-Anollés D, Mittenthal JS, Caetano-Anollés G (2007) Reductive evolution of architectural repertoires in proteomes and the birth of the tripartite world" Genome Research 17(11) 1572-1585.
  • Wang M, Caetano-Anollés G (2006) Global phylogeny determined by the combination of protein domains in proteomes" Molecular Biology and Evolution 23(12) 2444-54.
  • Mathesius U, Mulders S, Gao M, Teplitski M, Caetano-Anollés G, Rolfe BG, Bauer WD (2003) Extensive and specific responses of a eukaryote to bacterial-sensing signals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 100(3) 1444-1449.
  • Caetano-Anollés G, Caetano-Anollés D (2003) An evolutionarily structured universe of protein architecture" Genome Research 13(7) 1563-1571.
  • Caetano-Anollés G (2002) Tracing the evolution of RNA structure in ribosomes" Nucleic Acids Research 30(11) 2575-2587.
  • Caetano-Anollés G (2002) Evolved RNA secondary structure and the rooting of the universal tree" Journal of Molecular Evolution 54(3) 333-345.
  • Caetano-Anollés G (1996) Scanning of nucleic acids by in vitro amplification: new developments and applications. Nature Biotechnology 14(13) 1668-1674.
  • Caetano-Anollés G, Gresshoff PM (1991) Plant genetic control of nodulation. Annual Review in Microbiology 45:345-382.


  1. ^ Wang M, Caetano-Anollés G (2009). "The evolutionary mechanics of domain organization in proteomes and the rise of modularity in the protein world". Structure. 17 (1): 66–78. doi:10.1016/j.str.2008.11.008. PMID 19141283.
  2. ^ Caetano-Anollés G, Kim HS, Mittenthal JE (2007). "The origin of modern metabolic networks inferred from phylogenomic analysis of protein architecture". Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 104 (22): 9358–63. Bibcode:2007PNAS..104.9358C. doi:10.1073/pnas.0701214104. PMC 1890499. PMID 17517598.
  3. ^ Wang M, Kurland CG, Caetano-Anollés G (2011). "Reductive evolution of proteomes and protein structure". Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 108 (29): 11954–58. Bibcode:2011PNAS..10811954W. doi:10.1073/pnas.1017361108. PMC 3141956. PMID 21730144.
  4. ^ Nasir A, Kim KM, Caetano-Anollés G (2012). "Giant viruses coexisted with the cellular ancestors and represent a distinct supergroup along with superkingdoms Archaea, Bacteria and Eukarya". BMC Evol Biol. 12 (1): 156. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-12-156. PMC 3570343. PMID 22920653.
  5. ^ Kim KM, Caetano-Anollés G (2012). "The evolutionary history of protein fold families and proteomes confirms that the archaeal ancestor is more ancient than the ancestors of other superkingdoms". BMC Evol Biol. 12 (1): 13. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-12-13. PMC 3306197. PMID 22284070.
  6. ^ Sun FJ, Caetano-Anollés G (2010). "The ancient history of the structure of ribonuclease P and the early origins of Archaea". BMC Bioinformatics. 11: 153. doi:10.1186/1471-2105-11-153. PMC 2858038. PMID 20334683.
  7. ^ Kim KM, Caetano-Anollés G (2011). "The proteomic complexity and rise of the primordial ancestor of diversified life". BMC Evol Biol. 11 (1): 140. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-140. PMC 3123224. PMID 21612591.
  8. ^ "Life began with a planetary mega-organism". November 25, 2011. Retrieved 8 December 2012.
  9. ^ Harish A, Caetano-Anollés G (2012). "Ribosomal history reveals origins of modern protein synthesis". PLOS ONE. 7 (3): e32776. Bibcode:2012PLoSO...732776H. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032776. PMC 3299690. PMID 22427882.
  10. ^ "Your grandmother was a molecule". March 14, 2012. Retrieved 8 December 2012.
  11. ^ "Study of giant viruses shakes up tree of life". September 13, 2012. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
  12. ^ Saito MA (2012). "The rise of oxygen and aerobic biochemistry". Structure. 20 (1): 1–2. doi:10.1016/j.str.2011.12.006. PMID 22244750.
  13. ^ "Study of protein structures reveals key events in evolutionary history". March 10, 2009. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
  14. ^ "Transfer RNA transforms tree of life". March 7, 2008. Retrieved 8 December 2012.

External links[edit]

  • Gustavo Caetano-Anollés page at the Department of Crop Sciences: [1]
  • Evolutionary Bioinformatics laboratory: [2]
  • Evolutionary Bioinformatics blog: [3]
  • Molecular Ancestry Networks (MANET): [4]