Comparative genomics of Mycoplasma: analysis of conserved essential genes and diversity of the pan-genome

PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e35698. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0035698. Epub 2012 Apr 20.


Mycoplasma, the smallest self-replicating organism with a minimal metabolism and little genomic redundancy, is expected to be a close approximation to the minimal set of genes needed to sustain bacterial life. This study employs comparative evolutionary analysis of twenty Mycoplasma genomes to gain an improved understanding of essential genes. By analyzing the core genome of mycoplasmas, we finally revealed the conserved essential genes set for mycoplasma survival. Further analysis showed that the core genome set has many characteristics in common with experimentally identified essential genes. Several key genes, which are related to DNA replication and repair and can be disrupted in transposon mutagenesis studies, may be critical for bacteria survival especially over long period natural selection. Phylogenomic reconstructions based on 3,355 homologous groups allowed robust estimation of phylogenetic relatedness among mycoplasma strains. To obtain deeper insight into the relative roles of molecular evolution in pathogen adaptation to their hosts, we also analyzed the positive selection pressures on particular sites and lineages. There appears to be an approximate correlation between the divergence of species and the level of positive selection detected in corresponding lineages.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Conserved Sequence
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genes, Bacterial*
  • Genes, Essential*
  • Genetic Speciation
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genome, Bacterial
  • Genomics
  • Mycoplasma / genetics*
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Selection, Genetic


  • RNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S