Aphids evolved novel secreted proteins for symbiosis with bacterial endosymbiont

Shuji Shigenobu, David L. Stern

Abstract

Aphids evolved novel cells, called bacteriocytes, that differentiate specifically to harbour the obligatory mutualistic endosymbiotic bacteria Buchnera aphidicola. The genome of the host aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum contains many orphan genes that display no similarity with genes found in other sequenced organisms, prompting us to hypothesize that some of these orphan genes are related to lineage-specific traits, such as symbiosis. We conducted deep sequencing of bacteriocytes mRNA followed by whole mount in situ hybridizations of over-represented transcripts encoding aphid-specific orphan proteins. We identified a novel class of genes that encode small proteins with signal peptides, which are often cysteine-rich, that are over-represented in bacteriocytes. These genes are first expressed at a developmental time point coincident with the incorporation of symbionts strictly in the cells that contribute to the bacteriocyte and this bacteriocyte-specific expression is maintained throughout the aphid's life. The expression pattern suggests that recently evolved secretion proteins act within bacteriocytes, perhaps to mediate the symbiosis with beneficial bacterial partners, which is reminiscent of the evolution of novel cysteine-rich secreted proteins of leguminous plants that regulate nitrogen-fixing endosymbionts.

  • Received August 21, 2012.
  • Accepted October 18, 2012.
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© 2012 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.

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