Lifestyle evolution in symbiotic bacteria: insights from genomics

Trends Ecol Evol. 2000 Aug;15(8):321-326. doi: 10.1016/s0169-5347(00)01902-9.


Bacteria that live only in eukaryotic cells and tissues, including chronic pathogens and mutualistic bacteriocyte associates, often possess a distinctive set of genomic traits, including reduced genome size, biased nucleotide base composition and fast polypeptide evolution. These phylogenetically diverse bacteria have lost certain functional categories of genes, including DNA repair genes, which affect mutational patterns. However, pathogens and mutualistic symbionts retain loci that underlie their unique interaction types, such as genes enabling nutrient provisioning by mutualistic bacteria-inhabiting animals. Recent genomic studies suggest that many of these bacteria are irreversibly specialized, precluding shifts between pathogenesis and mutualism.