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Mol Biol Evol. 2016 Aug;33(8):1957-66. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msw071. Epub 2016 Apr 12.

Adaptation by Deletogenic Replication Slippage in a Nascent Symbiont.

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Department of Biology, University of Utah
Department of Biology, University of Utah.
Department of Human Genetics, University of Utah.


As a consequence of population level constraints in the obligate, host-associated lifestyle, intracellular symbiotic bacteria typically exhibit high rates of molecular sequence evolution and extensive genome degeneration over the course of their host association. While the rationale for genome degeneration is well understood, little is known about the molecular mechanisms driving this change. To understand these mechanisms we compared the genome of Sodalis praecaptivus, a nonhost associated bacterium that is closely related to members of the Sodalis-allied clade of insect endosymbionts, with the very recently derived insect symbiont Candidatus Sodalis pierantonius. The characterization of indel mutations in the genome of Ca Sodalis pierantonius shows that the replication system in this organism is highly prone to deletions resulting from polymerase slippage events in regions encoding G+C-rich repetitive sequences. This slippage-prone phenotype is mechanistically associated with the loss of certain components of the bacterial DNA recombination machinery at an early stage in symbiotic life and is expected to facilitate rapid adaptation to the novel host environment. This is analogous to the emergence of mutator strains in both natural and laboratory populations of bacteria, which tend to reach high frequencies in clonal populations due to linkage between the mutator allele and the resulting adaptive mutations.


evolution.; mutator; slippage; sodalis; symbiosis

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