* To whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received March 12, 2012
Since the definition of archaea as a separate domain of life along with bacteria and eukaryotes, they have become one of the most interesting objects of modern microbiology, molecular biology, and biochemistry. Sequencing and analysis of archaeal genomes were especially important for studies on archaea because of a limited availability of genetic tools for the majority of these microorganisms and problems associated with their cultivation. Fifteen years since the publication of the first genome of an archaeon, more than one hundred complete genome sequences of representatives of different phylogenetic groups have been determined. Analysis of these genomes has expanded our knowledge of biology of archaea, their diversity and evolution, and allowed identification and characterization of new deep phylogenetic lineages of archaea. The development of genome technologies has allowed sequencing the genomes of uncultivated archaea directly from enrichment cultures, metagenomic samples, and even from single cells. Insights have been gained into the evolution of key biochemical processes in archaea, such as cell division and DNA replication, the role of horizontal gene transfer in the evolution of archaea, and new relationships between archaea and eukaryotes have been revealed.
KEY WORDS: archaea, genome, evolution, sequencing, phylogeny, gene systematics, DNA replication, horizontal gene transfer