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Heredity (Edinb). 2005 Nov;95(5):339-47.

Chromosomal stasis versus plasmid plasticity in aphid endosymbiont Buchnera aphidicola.

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Institut Cavanilles de Biodiversitat i Biologia Evolutiva, Universitat de València, Apartado de Correos 2085, 46071 Valencia, Spain.


The study of three genomes of the aphid endosymbiont Buchnera aphidicola has revealed an extraordinary stasis: conservation of gene order and genetic composition of the chromosome, while the chromosome size and number of genes has reduced. The reduction in genome size appears to be ongoing since some lineages we now know to have even smaller chromosomes than the first B. aphidicola analysed. The current sequencing by our group of one of these smaller genomes with an estimated size of 450 kb, and its comparison with the other three available genomes provide insights into the nature of processes involved in shrinkage. We discuss whether B. aphidicola might be driven to extinction and be replaced by secondary aphid endosymbionts. In some lineages, genes encoding key enzymes in the pathways leading to tryptophan and leucine biosynthesis (trpEG and leuABCD, respectively) are located on plasmids, rather than the main chromosome. In contrast to the stasis of the main chromosome, plasmid genes have frequently been transferred to the main chromosome and undergone other gene rearrangements. We propose a two-step scenario to explain these contrasting modes of evolution. Essential genes may have escaped regulation by moving to plasmids in a moving B. aphidicola ancestor. B. aphidicola became polyploidy at a given stage of its evolution and plasmid genes have been transferred to the main chromosome through several independent events.

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