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PLoS One. 2015 Feb 11;10(2):e0116192. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0116192. eCollection 2015.

Two different rickettsial bacteria invading Volvox carteri.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Science, University of Tokyo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, Japan.
Department of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Bioscience and Biotechnology, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Ookayama, Meguro-ku, Tokyo, Japan.
Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Saint Louis, Missouri, United States of America.
Plant Global Education Project, Graduate School of Biological Sciences, Nara Institute of Science and Technology, Ikoma, Nara, Japan.
Center for Frontier Research, National Institute of Genetics, Mishima, Shizuoka, Japan.



Bacteria of the family Rickettsiaceae are principally associated with arthropods. Recently, endosymbionts of the Rickettsiaceae have been found in non-phagotrophic cells of the volvocalean green algae Carteria cerasiformis, Pleodorina japonica, and Volvox carteri. Such endosymbionts were present in only C. cerasiformis strain NIES-425 and V. carteri strain UTEX 2180, of various strains of Carteria and V. carteri examined, suggesting that rickettsial endosymbionts may have been transmitted to only a few algal strains very recently. However, in preliminary work, we detected a sequence similar to that of a rickettsial gene in the nuclear genome of V. carteri strain EVE.


Here we explored the origin of the rickettsial gene-like sequences in the endosymbiont-lacking V. carteri strain EVE, by performing comparative analyses on 13 strains of V. carteri. By reference to our ongoing genomic sequence of rickettsial endosymbionts in C. cerasiformis strain NIES-425 cells, we confirmed that an approximately 9-kbp DNA sequence encompassing a region similar to that of four rickettsial genes was present in the nuclear genome of V. carteri strain EVE. Phylogenetic analyses, and comparisons of the synteny of rickettsial gene-like sequences from various strains of V. carteri, indicated that the rickettsial gene-like sequences in the nuclear genome of V. carteri strain EVE were closely related to rickettsial gene sequences of P. japonica, rather than those of V. carteri strain UTEX 2180.


At least two different rickettsial organisms may have invaded the V. carteri lineage, one of which may be the direct ancestor of the endosymbiont of V. carteri strain UTEX 2180, whereas the other may be closely related to the endosymbiont of P. japonica. Endosymbiotic gene transfer from the latter rickettsial organism may have occurred in an ancestor of V. carteri. Thus, the rickettsiae may be widely associated with V. carteri, and likely have often been lost during host evolution.

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