Genetic Characterization of Plasmids Containing Genes Encoding Enzymes of Leucine Biosynthesis in Endosymbionts (Buchnera) of Aphids
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The prokaryotic endosymbionts (Buchnera) of aphids are known to provision their hosts with amino acids that are limiting in the aphid diet. Buchnera from the aphids Schizaphis graminum and Diuraphis noxia have plasmids containing leuABCD, genes that encode enzymes of the leucine biosynthetic pathway, as well as genes encoding proteins probably involved in plasmid replication (repA1 and repA2) and an open reading frame (ORF1) of unknown function. The newly reported plasmids closely resemble a plasmid previously described in Buchnera of the aphid Rhopalosiphum padi [Bracho AM, Martínez-Torres D, Moya A, Latorre A (1995) J Mol Evol 41:67–73]. Nucleotide sequence comparisons indicate conserved regions which may correspond to an origin of replication and two promoters, as well as inverted repeats, one of which resembles a rho-independent terminator. Phylogenetic analyses based on amino acid sequences of leu gene products and ORF1 resulted in trees identical to those obtained from endosymbiont chromosomal genes and the plasmid-borne trpEG. These results are consistent with a single evolutionary origin of the leuABCD-containing plasmid in a common ancestor of Aphididae and the lack of plasmid exchange between endosymbionts of different aphid species. Trees for ORF1 and repA (based on both nucleotides and amino acids) are used to examine the basis for leu plasmid differences between Buchnera of Thelaxes suberi and Aphididae. The most plausible explanation is that a single transfer of the leu genes to an ancestral replicon was followed by rearrangements. The related replicon in Buchnera of Pemphigidae, which lacks leuABCD, appears to represent the ancestral condition, implying that the plasmid location of the leu genes arose after the Pemphigidae diverged from other aphid families. This conclusion parallels previously published observations for the unrelated trpEG plasmid, which is present in Aphididae and absent in Pemphigidae. Recruitment of amino acid biosynthetic genes to plasmids has been ongoing in Buchnera lineages after the infection of aphid hosts.
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