Draft genome sequence of the male-killing Wolbachia strain wBol1 reveals recent horizontal gene transfers from diverse sources

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Duplouy, Anne
Iturbe-Ormaetxe, Inaki
Beatson, Scott
Szubert, Jan
Brownlie, Jeremy
McMeniman, Conor
McGraw, Elizabeth
D Hurst, Gregory
Charlat, Sylvain
O'Neill, Scott
Woolfit, Megan
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Background The endosymbiont Wolbachia pipientis causes diverse and sometimes dramatic phenotypes in its invertebrate hosts. Four Wolbachia strains sequenced to date indicate that the constitution of the genome is dynamic, but these strains are quite divergent and do not allow resolution of genome diversification over shorter time periods. We have sequenced the genome of the strain wBol1-b, found in the butterfly Hypolimnas bolina, which kills the male offspring of infected hosts during embyronic development and is closely related to the non-male-killing strain wPip from Culex pipiens. Results The genomes of wBol1-b and wPip are similar in genomic organisation, sequence and gene content, but show substantial differences at some rapidly evolving regions of the genome, primarily associated with prophage and repetitive elements. We identified 44 genes in wBol1-b that do not have homologs in any previously sequenced strains, indicating that Wolbachia's non-core genome diversifies rapidly. These wBol1-b specific genes include a number that have been recently horizontally transferred from phylogenetically distant bacterial taxa. We further report a second possible case of horizontal gene transfer from a eukaryote into Wolbachia. Conclusions Our analyses support the developing view that many endosymbiotic genomes are highly dynamic, and are exposed and receptive to exogenous genetic material from a wide range of sources. These data also suggest either that this bacterial species is particularly permissive for eukaryote-to-prokaryote gene transfers, or that these transfers may be more common than previously believed. The wBol1-b-specific genes we have identified provide candidates for further investigations of the genomic bases of phenotypic differences between closely-related Wolbachia strains.

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BMC Genomics

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© 2013 Duplouy et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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