Amino acid transporter expansions associated with the evolution of obligate endosymbiosis in sap-feeding insects (Hemiptera: Sternorrhyncha)


Mutualistic obligate endosymbioses shape the evolution of endosymbiont genomes, but their impact on host genomes remains unclear. Insects of the sub-order Sternorrhyncha (Hemiptera) depend on bacterial endosymbionts for essential amino acids present at low abundances in their phloem-based diet. This obligate dependency has been proposed to explain why multiple amino acid transporter genes are maintained in the genomes of the insect hosts. We implemented phylogenetic comparative methods to test whether amino acid transporters have proliferated in sternorrhynchan genomes at rates grater than expected by chance. By applying a series of methods to reconcile gene and species trees, inferring the size of gene families in ancestral lineages, and simulating the null process of birth and death in multi-gene families, we uncovered a 10-fold increase in duplication rate in the AAAP family of amino acid transporters within Sternorrhyncha. This gene family expansion was unmatched in other closely related clades lacking endosymbionts that provide essential amino acids. Our findings support the influence of obligate endosymbioses on host genome evolution by both inferring significant expansions of gene families involved in symbiotic interactions, and discovering increases in the rate of duplication associated with multiple emergences of obligate symbiosis in Sternorrhyncha.

BMC Evolutionary Biology 25(52), 1-11. *Corresponding authors
Liliana M. Dávalos
Liliana M. Dávalos
Professor of Conservation Biology

I’m interested in how biology and the environment shape biodiversity in time and space.