Serratia symbiotica from the aphid Cinara cedri: a missing link from facultative to obligate insect endosymbiont

PLoS Genet. 2011 Nov;7(11):e1002357. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002357. Epub 2011 Nov 10.


The genome sequencing of Buchnera aphidicola BCc from the aphid Cinara cedri, which is the smallest known Buchnera genome, revealed that this bacterium had lost its symbiotic role, as it was not able to synthesize tryptophan and riboflavin. Moreover, the biosynthesis of tryptophan is shared with the endosymbiont Serratia symbiotica SCc, which coexists with B. aphidicola in this aphid. The whole-genome sequencing of S. symbiotica SCc reveals an endosymbiont in a stage of genome reduction that is closer to an obligate endosymbiont, such as B. aphidicola from Acyrthosiphon pisum, than to another S. symbiotica, which is a facultative endosymbiont in this aphid, and presents much less gene decay. The comparison between both S. symbiotica enables us to propose an evolutionary scenario of the transition from facultative to obligate endosymbiont. Metabolic inferences of B. aphidicola BCc and S. symbiotica SCc reveal that most of the functions carried out by B. aphidicola in A. pisum are now either conserved in B. aphidicola BCc or taken over by S. symbiotica. In addition, there are several cases of metabolic complementation giving functional stability to the whole consortium and evolutionary preservation of the actors involved.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / biosynthesis
  • Amino Acids / genetics
  • Animals
  • Aphids / microbiology*
  • Bacterial Proteins / classification*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Biological Evolution
  • Buchnera / genetics*
  • Buchnera / metabolism
  • Enterobacteriaceae / genetics*
  • Enterobacteriaceae / metabolism
  • Genome, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways / genetics
  • Phylogeny
  • Pseudogenes / genetics
  • Riboflavin / biosynthesis
  • Riboflavin / genetics
  • Serratia / genetics*
  • Serratia / metabolism
  • Symbiosis / genetics*
  • Tryptophan / biosynthesis
  • Tryptophan / genetics


  • Amino Acids
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Tryptophan
  • Riboflavin