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Heredity (Edinb). 2013 Oct;111(4):330-7. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2013.56. Epub 2013 Jun 12.

Lateral transfers of insertion sequences between Wolbachia, Cardinium and Rickettsia bacterial endosymbionts.

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  • 1Institut des Sciences de l'Evolution, CNRS-Université Montpellier 2 (UMR 5554), Montpellier, France.


Various bacteria live exclusively within arthropod cells and collectively act as an important driver of arthropod evolutionary ecology. Whereas rampant intra-generic DNA transfers were recently shown to have a pivotal role in the evolution of the most common of these endosymbionts, Wolbachia, the present study show that inter-generic DNA transfers also commonly take place, constituting a potent source of rapid genomic change. Bioinformatic, molecular and phylogenetic data provide evidence that a selfish genetic element, the insertion sequence ISRpe1, is widespread in the Wolbachia, Cardinium and Rickettsia endosymbionts and experiences recent (and likely ongoing) transfers over long evolutionary distances. Although many ISRpe1 copies were clearly expanding and leading to rapid endosymbiont diversification, degraded copies are also frequently found, constituting an unusual genomic fossil record suggestive of ancient ISRpe1 expansions. Overall, the present data highlight how ecological connections within the arthropod intracellular environment facilitate lateral DNA transfers between distantly related bacterial lineages.

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