Patrick Forterre: Synopsis of Research Activities



DNA topology, chromosome structure, and mechanisms of DNA replication/repair/recombination in Archaea

Origin, evolution and nature of hyperthermophiles

Mechanisms of genome evolution: role of viruses in the origin and evolution of DNA and DNA replication mechanisms


Identification of reverse gyrase, an enzyme that produces positive superturns, as a type I DNA topoisomerase combined to an helicase module (Forterre et al., EMBO J., 1985, Confalonieri et al., PNAS, 1993)

Discovery of a unique intracellular DNA topological state (positive supercoiling) in some hyperthermohilic archaea (Nadal et al., Nature, 1984, Charbonnier et al., J. Bact. 1992, Charbonnier and Forterre, J. Bact, 1994, Lopez-Garcia and Forterre, Mol. Microbiol. 1996, 1998)

Topologically closed DNA is stable at least up to 107C (Marguet and Forterre, NAR, 1994)

Discovery of DNA topoisomerase VI: the prototype of a new family of type II DNA topoisomerases only present in Archaea and plants (Bergerat et al., Nature, 1997, Bulher et al., J. Biol. Chem., 2001, Gadelle et al., Bioassays, 2002)

Identification of a new ATP-binding domain (the Bergerat fold) (Bergerat et al., Nature, 1997)

Identification of SPO11 (the ubiquitous eukaryotic homologue of DNA topoisomerase VI A subunits) as the enzyme that initiates meiotic recombination in eukaryotes (Bergerat et al., Nature, 1997)

Identification of the first chromosomal replication origin in Archaea. Characterization of archaeal Okazaki’s fragments (Myllykallio et al. Science, 2000, Matsunaga et al., PNAS, 2001, Matsunaga et al. EMBO report, 2003)

Discovery of a new family of archaeal nucleases probably involved in recombination/repair (Constantinesco et al., EMBO report, 2002)

Discovery of a new family of thymidylate synthase (Myllykallio et al., Science, 2002)

Sequencing of Pyrococcus abyssi genome and identification of mechanisms of genome evolution by comparative analysis of three Pyrococcus genomes (Zivanovic et al., NAR 2002, Cohen et al., Mol. Microbiol. 2003)

Discovery of new families of helicase and nuclease involved in DNA recombination in Archaea (Constantinesco et al., EMBO report 2002, NAR, 2004)

Discovery of a new inhibitor of archaeal Topo VI and human Topo II (Gadelle et al., NAR, 2005, Biochem Pharmacology, 2006)


The thermoreduction hypothesis for the origin of prokaryotes (Forterre, C R Acad Sci, 1995)

Evidences against the classical rooting of the tree of life from cladistic and statistical analyses of ancient molecular phylogenies (Forterre et al., Biosystems, 1993, Forterre and Philippe, J. Mol. Evol. 1999, Lopez et al., , J. Mol. Evol. 1999)

Reverse gyrase is the only hyperthermophilic specific protein. Hyperthermophily probably appeared in Archaea and is a secondary adaptation in Eukaryotes (Forterre et al. TIG, 2000, Forterre, TIG, 2002)

Establihment of a robust phylogeny for the archaeal domain (reevaluation of the position of Methanopyrus kandleri and Nanoarchaeum equitans) (Matte-Taillez et al., Mol Biol evol, 2002, BMC evo, 2004, 2005a, 2005b)

The hypothesis of viral origin for DNA and DNA replication mechanisms (Forterre, Mol. Microbiol. 1999, Current Opin. Microbiol. 2002, Biochimie, 2005, Virus Res, 2006, PNAS, 2006, Prangishvili et al., Nature Rev. Micro, 2006)