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Mol Biol Evol. 2003 Aug;20(8):1188-94. Epub 2003 May 30.

Loss of DNA recombinational repair enzymes in the initial stages of genome degeneration.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, University of Arizona, USA.


Many obligate intracellular pathogens and symbionts undergo genome degeneration during long-term association with eukaryotic hosts; however, very little is known about genome changes that occur in the initial stages of such intracellular associations. By focusing on a clade of bacteria that have recently established symbiotic associations with insect hosts, we have identified events that may contribute to the reduction and degeneration of symbiont genomes. Unlike virtually all other bacteria, the obligate symbionts of maize and rice weevils each display substantial sequence divergence between multiple copies of their rDNA genes, resulting from a reduction in the efficacy of recombinational gene conversion, coincident with the inactivation of the recombinational repair gene recF in the common ancestor of both symbionts. The maize weevil endosymbiont also lacks a functional recA, resulting in further reduction in the efficacy of gene conversion between paralogous rDNAs and in a novel IS-mediated deletion in a 23S rDNA gene. Similar events may be pervasive during the evolution of symbiosis because symbiont genomes typically lack recombinational repair genes and have reduced numbers of ribosomal operons.

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