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One of the three domains of living organisms: Archaea, Bacteria and Eukaryota. While Archaea are single-celled, they are unlike bacteria given their independent evolutionary history. Archaea differ from Eukaryota in their ribosomal structure and the presence—in some—of introns in the genome, as well as other features (e.g., different membrane composition).
Archaea are of interest in biotechnology as they have unique biochemical features (e.g., enzymes of theromophiles, such as Taq polymerase, the “workhorse” enzyme of PCR) and are extremely stable at high temperatures. Archaea include metabolic oddities (e.g., extreme halophiles, which live in extremely salty environments), methanogens (which produce methane) and sulphur-dependant extreme thermophiles (which can live in extremely hot environments).
• Thaumarchaeota (recently proposed)
Archaebacteria)one of the three primary groupings (DOMAINS) of ORGANISMS, according to some classification schemes, based on genetic structures and sequences. See CLASSIFICATION. Members of the Archaea are PROKARYOTES and include the extreme HALOPHILES, the thermoacidophiles (organisms that normally grow at high temperatures in acidic environments; see also THERMOPHILIC), and the METHANOGENS.
They differ in a number of ways from other BACTERIA, for example in the structure of their MEMBRANE LIPIDS, TRANSFER RNA molecules and CELL WALL, and in their sensitivity to ANTIBIOTICS. The Archaea is a very diverse group organized into two KINGDOMS, the CRENARCHAEOTA and the EURYARCHAEOTA. It was initially considered to represent the most ancient group of organisms still living. This is reflected in the name, from the Greek archaios, meaning ancient.