Genome Sequence of Candidatus Riesia pediculischaeffi, Endosymbiont of Chimpanzee Lice, and Genomic Comparison of Recently Acquired Endosymbionts from Human and Chimpanzee Lice

Boyd et al. (2014). G3 Genes|Genomes|Genetics 4 (11)
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Genetics Genetics(clinical) Molecular Biology
Abstract The obligate-heritable endosymbionts of insects possess some of the smallest known bacterial genomes. This is likely due to loss of genomic material during symbiosis. The mode and rate of this erosion may change over evolutionary time: faster in newly formed associations and slower in long-established ones. The endosymbionts of human and anthropoid primate lice present a unique opportunity to study genome erosion in newly established (or young) symbionts. This is because we have a detailed phylogenetic history of these endosymbionts with divergence dates for closely related species. This allows for genome evolution to be studied in detail and rates of change to be estimated in a phylogenetic framework. Here, we sequenced the genome of the chimpanzee louse endosymbiont (Candidatus Riesia pediculischaeffi) and compared it with the closely related genome of the human body louse endosymbiont. From this comparison, we found evidence for recent genome erosion leading to gene loss in these endosymbionts. Although gene loss was detected, it was not significantly greater than in older endosymbionts from aphids and ants. Additionally, we searched for genes associated with B-vitamin synthesis in the two louse endosymbiont genomes because these endosymbionts are believed to synthesize essential B vitamins absent in the louse’s diet. All of the expected genes were present, except those involved in thiamin synthesis. We failed to find genes encoding for proteins involved in the biosynthesis of thiamin or any complete exogenous means of salvaging thiamin, suggesting there is an undescribed mechanism for the salvage of thiamin. Finally, genes encoding for the pantothenate de novo biosynthesis pathway were located on a plasmid in both taxa along with a heat shock protein. Movement of these genes onto a plasmid may be functionally and evolutionarily significant, potentially increasing production and guarding against the deleterious effects of mutation. These data add to a growing resource of obligate endosymbiont genomes and to our understanding of the rate and mode of genome erosion in obligate animal-associated bacteria. Ultimately sequencing additional louse p-endosymbiont genomes will provide a model system for studying genome evolution in obligate host associated bacteria.
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