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PLoS Genet. 2018 Oct 29;14(10):e1007763. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1007763. eCollection 2018 Oct.

Metabolic adaptations underlying genome flexibility in prokaryotes.

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The Simons Centre for the Study of Living Machines, National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bangalore, India.


Even across genomes of the same species, prokaryotes exhibit remarkable flexibility in gene content. We do not know whether this flexible or "accessory" content is mostly neutral or adaptive, largely due to the lack of explicit analyses of accessory gene function. Here, across 96 diverse prokaryotic species, I show that a considerable fraction (~40%) of accessory genomes harbours beneficial metabolic functions. These functions take two forms: (1) they significantly expand the biosynthetic potential of individual strains, and (2) they help reduce strain-specific metabolic auxotrophies via intra-species metabolic exchanges. I find that the potential of both these functions increases with increasing genome flexibility. Together, these results are consistent with a significant adaptive role for prokaryotic pangenomes.

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