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J Bacteriol. 2005 Jun;187(12):4229-37.

Regulation of transcription in a reduced bacterial genome: nutrient-provisioning genes of the obligate symbiont Buchnera aphidicola.

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


Buchnera aphidicola, the obligate symbiont of aphids, has an extremely reduced genome, of which about 10% is devoted to the biosynthesis of essential amino acids needed by its hosts. Most regulatory genes for these pathways are absent, raising the question of whether and how transcription of these genes responds to the major shifts in dietary amino acid content encountered by aphids. Using full-genome microarrays for B. aphidicola of the host Schizaphis graminum, we examined transcriptome responses to changes in dietary amino acid content and then verified behavior of individual transcripts using quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR. The only gene showing a consistent and substantial (>twofold) response was metE, which underlies methionine biosynthesis and which is the only amino acid biosynthetic gene retaining its ancestral regulator (metR). In another aphid host, Acyrthosiphon pisum, B. aphidicola has no functional metR and shows no response in metE transcript levels to changes in amino acid concentrations. Thus, the only substantial transcriptional response involves the one gene for which an ancestral regulator is retained. This result parallels that from a previous study on heat stress, in which only the few genes retaining the global heat shock promoter showed responses in transcript abundance. The irreversible losses of transcriptional regulators constrain ability to alter gene expression in the context of environmental fluctuations affecting the symbiotic partners.

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