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Mol Ecol. 2002 Dec;11(12):2649-60.

Extremely low levels of genetic polymorphism in endosymbionts (Buchnera) of aphids (Pemphigus).

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA.


Molecular evolutionary studies have suggested that vertically transmitted endosymbionts are subject to accumulation of deleterious mutations through genetic drift. Predictions of this hypothesis for patterns of intraspecific polymorphism were borne out in the single relevant study available, on the symbiont Buchnera aphidicola of Uroleucon ambrosiae. In order to examine the generality of this result, we surveyed DNA sequence variation in Buchnera of the distantly related aphid, Pemphigus obesinymphae. In contrast to Uroleucon species, Pemphigus species have complex life cycles with few dispersal stages. Despite these differences, P. obesinymphae showed patterns of variation at two Buchnera loci and one mitochondrial locus that were remarkably similar to those reported previously for Buchnera of U. ambrosiae. In the western US, Buchnera was nearly monomorphic, and in the eastern US, synonymous divergence ranged from 0.08 to 0.16%. Most polymorphisms involved rare alleles, consistent with a recent range of ancestral polymorphism, probably due to demographic fluctuations in aphid populations. These results support the generality of small effective population size in Buchnera and their aphid hosts.

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