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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2006 Dec;72(12):7760-6. Epub 2006 Oct 13.

Different levels of transcriptional regulation due to trophic constraints in the reduced genome of Buchnera aphidicola APS.

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UMR 203 INRA/INSA de Lyon, Biologie Fonctionnelle Insectes et Interactions (BF2I), INSA, Bât. Louis Pasteur, 69621 Villeurbanne Cedex, France.


Symbiotic associations involving intracellular microorganisms and animals are widespread, especially for species feeding on poor or unbalanced diets. Buchnera aphidicola, the obligate intracellular bacterium associated with most aphid species, provides its hosts with essential amino acids (EAAs), nutrients in short supply in the plant phloem sap. The Buchnera genome has undergone severe reductions during intracellular evolution. Genes for EAA biosynthesis are conserved, but most of the transcriptional regulatory elements are lost. This work addresses two main questions: is transcription in Buchnera (i) regulated and (ii) scaled to aphid EAA demand? Two microarray experiments were designed for profiling the gene expression in Buchnera. The first one was characterized by a specific depletion of tyrosine and phenylalanine in the aphid diet, and the second experiment combined a global diminution of EAAs in the aphid diet with a sucrose concentration increase to manipulate the aphid growth rate. Aphid biological performance and budget analysis (the balance between EAAs provided by the diet and those synthesized by Buchnera) were performed to quantify the nutritional demand from the aphids toward their symbiotic bacteria. Despite the absence of known regulatory elements, a significant transcriptional regulation was observed at different levels of organization in the Buchnera genome: between genes, within putative transcription units, and within specific metabolic pathways. However, unambiguous evidence for transcriptional changes underpinning the scaling of EAA biosynthesis to aphid demand was not obtained. The phenotypic relevance of the transcriptional response from the reduced genome of Buchnera is addressed.

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