Open Access Research article

Loss of genes for DNA recombination and repair in the reductive genome evolution of thioautotrophic symbionts of Calyptogena clams

Hirokazu Kuwahara12, Yoshihiro Takaki1, Shigeru Shimamura1, Takao Yoshida1, Taro Maeda3, Takekazu Kunieda2 and Tadashi Maruyama1*

Author Affiliations

1 Marine Biodiversity Research Program, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Natsushima-cho, Yokosuka, Kanagawa 237-0061, Japan

2 Department of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Science, The University of Tokyo, Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan

3 Graduate School of Marine Science and Technology, Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, Konan, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-8477, Japan

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2011, 11:285  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-285

Published: 3 October 2011



Two Calyptogena clam intracellular obligate symbionts, Ca. Vesicomyosocius okutanii (Vok; C. okutanii symbiont) and Ca. Ruthia magnifica (Rma; C. magnifica symbiont), have small genomes (1.02 and 1.16 Mb, respectively) with low G+C contents (31.6% and 34.0%, respectively) and are thought to be in an ongoing stage of reductive genome evolution (RGE). They lack recA and some genes for DNA repair, including mutY. The loss of recA and mutY is thought to contribute to the stabilization of their genome architectures and GC bias, respectively. To understand how these genes were lost from the symbiont genomes, we surveyed these genes in the genomes from 10 other Calyptogena clam symbionts using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR).


Phylogenetic trees reconstructed using concatenated 16S and 23S rRNA gene sequences showed that the symbionts formed two clades, clade I (symbionts of C. kawamurai, C. laubieri, C. kilmeri, C. okutanii and C. soyoae) and clade II (those of C. pacifica, C. fausta, C. nautilei, C. stearnsii, C. magnifica, C. fossajaponica and C. phaseoliformis). recA was detected by PCR with consensus primers for recA in the symbiont of C. phaseoliformis. A detailed homology search revealed a remnant recA in the Rma genome. Using PCR with a newly designed primer set, intact recA or its remnant was detected in clade II symbionts. In clade I symbionts, the recA coding region was found to be mostly deleted.

In the Rma genome, a pseudogene of mutY was found. Using PCR with newly designed primer sets, mutY was not found in clade I symbionts but was found in clade II symbionts. The G+C content of 16S and 23S rRNA genes in symbionts lacking mutY was significantly lower than in those with mutY.


The extant Calyptogena clam symbionts in clade II were shown to have recA and mutY or their remnants, while those in clade I did not. The present results indicate that the extant symbionts are losing these genes in RGE, and that the loss of mutY contributed to the GC bias of the genomes during their evolution.