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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 May 6;105(18):6730-4. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0707522105. Epub 2008 Apr 29.

Extreme polyploidy in a large bacterium.

Author information

  • 1Department of Microbiology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.

Abstract

Cells rely on diffusion to move metabolites and biomolecules. Diffusion is highly efficient but only over short distances. Although eukaryotic cells have broken free of diffusion-dictated constraints on cell size, most bacteria and archaea are forced to remain small. Exceptions to this rule are found among the bacterial symbionts of surgeonfish; Epulopiscium spp. are cigar-shaped cells that reach lengths in excess of 600 mum. A large Epulopiscium contains thousands of times more DNA than a bacterium such as Escherichia coli, but the composition of this DNA is not well understood. Here, we present evidence that Epulopiscium contains tens of thousands of copies of its genome. Using quantitative, single-cell PCR assays targeting single-copy genes, we have determined that copy number is positively correlated with Epulopiscium cell size. Although other bacteria are known to possess multiple genomes, polyploidy of the magnitude observed in Epulopiscium is unprecedented. The arrangement of genomes around the cell periphery may permit regional responses to local stimuli, thus allowing Epulopiscium to maintain its unusually large size. Surveys of the sequences of single-copy genes (dnaA, recA, and ftsZ) revealed genetic homogeneity within a cell consistent with only a small amount ( approximately 1%) of the parental DNA being transferred to the next generation. The results also suggest that the abundance of genome copies in Epulopiscium may allow for an unstable genetic feature, a long mononucleotide tract, in an essential gene. With the evolution of extreme polyploidy and large cell size, Epulopiscium has acquired some of the advantages of eukaryotic cells.

PMID:
18445653
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2373351
Free PMC Article

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