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Gene. 2006 Mar 29;370:17-25. Epub 2006 Jan 18.

Plasmids in the aphid endosymbiont Buchnera aphidicola with the smallest genomes. A puzzling evolutionary story.

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Instituto Cavanilles de Biodiversidad y Biología Evolutiva, Universidad de Valencia, Apartado de Correos 2085, 46071 Valencia, Spain.


Buchnera aphidicola, the primary endosymbiont of aphids, has undergone important genomic and biochemical changes as an adaptation to intracellular life. The most important structural changes include a drastic genome reduction and the amplification of genes encoding key enzymes for the biosynthesis of amino acids by their translocation to plasmids. Molecular characterization through different aphid subfamilies has revealed that the genes involved in leucine and tryptophan biosynthesis show a variable fate, since they can be located on plasmids or on the chromosome in different lineages. This versatility contrasts with the genomic stasis found in three distantly related B. aphidicola strains already sequenced. We present the analysis of three B. aphidicola strains (BTg, BCt and BCc) belonging to aphids from different tribes of the subfamily Lachninae, that was estimated to harbour the bacteria with the smallest genomes. The presence of both leucine and tryptophan plasmids in BTg, a chimerical leucine-tryptophan plasmid in BCt, and only a leucine plasmid in BCc, indicates the existence of many recombination events in a recA minus bacterium. In addition, these B. aphidicola plasmids are the simplest described in this species, indicating that plasmids are also involved in the genome shrinkage process.

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