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PLoS One. 2011;6(12):e29096. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029096. Epub 2011 Dec 27.

A genomic reappraisal of symbiotic function in the aphid/Buchnera symbiosis: reduced transporter sets and variable membrane organisations.

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UMR203 BF2I, Biologie Fonctionnelle Insectes et Interactions, INSA-Lyon, INRA, Université de Lyon, Villeurbanne, France.


Buchnera aphidicola is an obligate symbiotic bacterium that sustains the physiology of aphids by complementing their exclusive phloem sap diet. In this study, we reappraised the transport function of different Buchnera strains, from the aphids Acyrthosiphon pisum, Schizaphis graminum, Baizongia pistaciae and Cinara cedri, using the re-annotation of their transmembrane proteins coupled with an exploration of their metabolic networks. Although metabolic analyses revealed high interdependencies between the host and the bacteria, we demonstrate here that transport in Buchnera is assured by low transporter diversity, when compared to free-living bacteria, being mostly based on a few general transporters, some of which probably have lost their substrate specificity. Moreover, in the four strains studied, an astonishing lack of inner-membrane importers was observed. In Buchnera, the transport function has been shaped by the distinct selective constraints occurring in the Aphididae lineages. Buchnera from A. pisum and S. graminum have a three-membraned system and similar sets of transporters corresponding to most compound classes. Transmission electronic microscopic observations and confocal microscopic analysis of intracellular pH fields revealed that Buchnera does not show any of the typical structures and properties observed in integrated organelles. Buchnera from B. pistaciae seem to possess a unique double membrane system and has, accordingly, lost all of its outer-membrane integral proteins. Lastly, Buchnera from C. cedri revealed an extremely poor repertoire of transporters, with almost no ATP-driven active transport left, despite the clear persistence of the ancestral three-membraned system.

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