Evolution of minimal-gene-sets in host-dependent bacteria

Trends Microbiol. 2004 Jan;12(1):37-43. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2003.11.006.


Several attempts have been made to identify the minimal set of genes that is required for life using computational approaches or studies of deletion mutants. These experiments resemble those already performed by nature; a few hundred million years ago an ancestor of Escherichia coli was domesticated by aphids, which resulted in the elimination of 70-75% of the original bacterial genome. Amazingly, the small genomes of these imprisoned bacteria are more stable than those of their free-living relatives. Minimal-gene-sets that have evolved naturally are largely species-specific, with the exception of a small set of core genes that are required for information processing. Comparative genomics of host-dependent bacteria have shown that minimal-gene-sets can persist in nature for tens of millions of years provided that the environment is rich in nutrients, that the host population size is large and that there is a strong host-level selection for bacterial gene functions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aphids / microbiology*
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteria / growth & development
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Buchnera / genetics
  • Buchnera / growth & development
  • Buchnera / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / growth & development
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genes, Bacterial*
  • Genomics
  • Symbiosis*