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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Sep 26;97(20):10855-60.

Postsymbiotic plasmid acquisition and evolution of the repA1-replicon in Buchnera aphidicola.

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Centro de Astrobiologia, Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial, Edificio S-18, Carretera de Torrejón a Ajalvir, 28850 Torrejón de Ardoz, Spain.


Buchnera aphidicola is an obligate, strictly vertically transmitted, bacterial symbiont of aphids. It supplies its host with essential amino acids, nutrients required by aphids but deficient in their diet of plant phloem sap. Several lineages of Buchnera show adaptation to their nutritional role in the form of plasmid-mediated amplification of key-genes involved in the biosynthesis of tryptophan (trpEG) and leucine (leuABCD). Phylogenetic analyses of these plasmid-encoded functions have thus far suggested the absence of horizontal plasmid exchange among lineages of Buchnera. Here, we describe three new Buchnera plasmids, obtained from species of the aphid host families Lachnidae and Pemphigidae. All three plasmids belong to the repA1 family of Buchnera plasmids, which is characterized by the presence of a repA1-replicon responsible for replication initiation. A comprehensive analysis of this family of plasmids unexpectedly revealed significantly incongruent phylogenies for different plasmid and chromosomally encoded loci. We infer from these incongruencies a case of horizontal plasmid transfer in Buchnera. This process may have been mediated by secondary endosymbionts, which occasionally undergo horizontal transmission in aphids.

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