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Genome Biol Evol. 2014 Aug 8;6(8):2156-69. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evu169.

Horizontal transfers and gene losses in the phospholipid pathway of bartonella reveal clues about early ecological niches.

Author information

  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University at Buffalo, State University of New York
  • 2Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Foothills Research Campus, Fort Collins, Colorado.
  • 3EcoHealth Alliance, New York, New York.
  • 4Department of Biological Sciences, University at Buffalo, State University of New York Graduate Program of Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior, University at Buffalo, State University of New York


Bartonellae are mammalian pathogens vectored by blood-feeding arthropods. Although of increasing medical importance, little is known about their ecological past, and host associations are underexplored. Previous studies suggest an influence of horizontal gene transfers in ecological niche colonization by acquisition of host pathogenicity genes. We here expand these analyses to metabolic pathways of 28 Bartonella genomes, and experimentally explore the distribution of bartonellae in 21 species of blood-feeding arthropods. Across genomes, repeated gene losses and horizontal gains in the phospholipid pathway were found. The evolutionary timing of these patterns suggests functional consequences likely leading to an early intracellular lifestyle for stem bartonellae. Comparative phylogenomic analyses discover three independent lineage-specific reacquisitions of a core metabolic gene-NAD(P)H-dependent glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (gpsA)-from Gammaproteobacteria and Epsilonproteobacteria. Transferred genes are significantly closely related to invertebrate Arsenophonus-, and Serratia-like endosymbionts, and mammalian Helicobacter-like pathogens, supporting a cellular association with arthropods and mammals at the base of extant Bartonella spp. Our studies suggest that the horizontal reacquisitions had a key impact on bartonellae lineage specific ecological and functional evolution.

© The Author(s) 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.


Bartonella; gene loss; horizontal gene transfer; host association; intracellularity; phospholipid pathway

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