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Nucleic Acids Res. 2012 Sep;40(16):7870-84. doi: 10.1093/nar/gks503. Epub 2012 Jun 11.

Altered tRNA characteristics and 3' maturation in bacterial symbionts with reduced genomes.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, West Campus, Yale University, PO Box 27388 West Haven, CT 06516-7388, USA.


Translational efficiency is controlled by tRNAs and other genome-encoded mechanisms. In organelles, translational processes are dramatically altered because of genome shrinkage and horizontal acquisition of gene products. The influence of genome reduction on translation in endosymbionts is largely unknown. Here, we investigate whether divergent lineages of Buchnera aphidicola, the reduced-genome bacterial endosymbiont of aphids, possess altered translational features compared with their free-living relative, Escherichia coli. Our RNAseq data support the hypothesis that translation is less optimal in Buchnera than in E. coli. We observed a specific, convergent, pattern of tRNA loss in Buchnera and other endosymbionts that have undergone genome shrinkage. Furthermore, many modified nucleoside pathways that are important for E. coli translation are lost in Buchnera. Additionally, Buchnera's A + T compositional bias has resulted in reduced tRNA thermostability, and may have altered aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase recognition sites. Buchnera tRNA genes are shorter than those of E. coli, as the majority no longer has a genome-encoded 3' CCA; however, all the expressed, shortened tRNAs undergo 3' CCA maturation. Moreover, expression of tRNA isoacceptors was not correlated with the usage of corresponding codons. Overall, our data suggest that endosymbiont genome evolution alters tRNA characteristics that are known to influence translational efficiency in their free-living relative.

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