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A Freeloader? The Highly Eroded Yet Large Genome of the Serratia symbiotica Symbiont of Cinara strobi

Abstract : Genome reduction is pervasive among maternally inherited bacterial endosymbionts. This genome reduction can eventually lead to serious deterioration of essential metabolic pathways, thus rendering an obligate endosymbiont unable to provide essential nutrients to its host. This loss of essential pathways can lead to either symbiont complementation (sharing of the nutrient production with a novel co-obligate symbiont) or symbiont replacement (complete takeover of nutrient production by the novel symbiont). However, the process by which these two evolutionary events happen remains somewhat enigmatic by the lack of examples of intermediate stages of this process. Cinara aphids (Hemiptera Aphididae) typically harbor two obligate bacterial symbionts Buchnera and Serratia symbiotica. However, the latter has been replaced by different bacterial taxa in specific lineages, and thus species within this aphid lineage could provide important clues into the process of symbiont replacement. In the present study, using 16S rRNA high-throughput amplicon sequencing, we determined that the aphid Cinara strobi harbors not two, but three fixed bacterial symbionts Buchnera aphidicola, a Sodalis sp., and S. symbiotica. Through genome assembly and genome-based metabolic inference, we have found that only the first two symbionts (Buchnera and Sodalis) actually contribute to the hosts' supply of essential nutrients while S. symbiotica has become unable to contribute towards this task. We found that S. symbiotica has a rather large and highly eroded genome which codes only for a few proteins and displays extensive pseudogenization. Thus, we propose an ongoing symbiont replacement within C. strobi, in which a once "competent" S. symbiotica does no longer contribute towards the beneficial association. These results suggest that in dual symbiotic systems, when a substitute cosymbiont is available, genome deterioration can precede genome reduction and a symbiont can be maintained despite the apparent lack of benefit to its host.
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Alejandro Manzano-Marin, Armelle Coeur d'Acier, Anne-Laure Clamens, Celine Orvain, Corinne Cruaud, et al.. A Freeloader? The Highly Eroded Yet Large Genome of the Serratia symbiotica Symbiont of Cinara strobi. Genome Biology and Evolution, Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution, 2018, 10 (9), pp.2178-2189. ⟨10.1093/gbe/evy173⟩. ⟨cea-02291350⟩

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