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Nat Genet. 2004 Jan;36(1):27-9. Epub 2003 Dec 7.

Reductive evolution suggested from the complete genome sequence of a plant-pathogenic phytoplasma.

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Department of Integrated Biosciences, Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, The University of Tokyo, 202 Bioscience Building, 5-1-5 Kashiwanoha, Kashiwa, Chiba 277-8562, Japan.


The minimal gene set essential for life has long been sought. We report the 860-kb genome of the obligate intracellular plant pathogen phytoplasma (Candidatus Phytoplasma asteris, OY strain). The phytoplasma genome encodes even fewer metabolic functions than do mycoplasma genomes. It lacks the pentose phosphate cycle and, more unexpectedly, ATP-synthase subunits, which are thought to be essential for life. This may be the result of reductive evolution as a consequence of life as an intracellular parasite in a nutrient-rich environment.

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