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Genomic analysis of the regulatory elements and links with intrinsic DNA structural properties in the shrunken genome of Buchnera

Lilia Brinza123, Federica Calevro1 and Hubert Charles12*

Author affiliations

1 UMR203 BF2I, Biologie Fonctionnelle Insectes et Interactions, INSA-Lyon, INRA, Université de Lyon, Villeurbanne, France

2 BAMBOO, INRIA Rhône-Alpes, Montbonnot Saint-Martin, France

3 Present address: Université de Lyon, Université Lyon1, CNRS, UMR 5558, Laboratoire de Biométrie et Biologie Evolutive, Lyon, France

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Citation and License

BMC Genomics 2013, 14:73  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-73

Published: 1 February 2013



Buchnera aphidicola is an obligate symbiotic bacterium, associated with most of the aphididae, whose genome has drastically shrunk during intracellular evolution. Gene regulation in Buchnera has been a matter of controversy in recent years as the combination of genomic information with the experimental results has been contradictory, refuting or arguing in favour of a functional and responsive transcription regulation in Buchnera.

The goal of this study was to describe the gene transcription regulation capabilities of Buchnera based on the inventory of cis- and trans-regulators encoded in the genomes of five strains from different aphids (Acyrthosiphon pisum, Schizaphis graminum, Baizongia pistacea, Cinara cedri and Cinara tujafilina), as well as on the characterisation of some intrinsic structural properties of the DNA molecule in these bacteria.


Interaction graph analysis shows that gene neighbourhoods are conserved between E. coli and Buchnera in structures called transcriptons, interactons and metabolons, indicating that selective pressures have acted on the evolution of transcriptional, protein-protein interaction and metabolic networks in Buchnera. The transcriptional regulatory network in Buchnera is composed of a few general DNA-topological regulators (Nucleoid Associated Proteins and topoisomerases), with the quasi-absence of any specific ones (except for multifunctional enzymes with a known gene expression regulatory role in Escherichia coli, such as AlaS, PepA and BolA, and the uncharacterized hypothetical regulators YchA and YrbA). The relative positioning of regulatory genes along the chromosome of Buchnera seems to have conserved its ancestral state, despite the genome erosion. Sigma-70 promoters with canonical thermodynamic sequence profiles were detected upstream of about 94% of the CDS of Buchnera in the different aphids. Based on Stress-Induced Duplex Destabilization (SIDD) measurements, unstable σ70 promoters were found specifically associated with the regulator and transporter genes.


This genomic analysis provides supporting evidence of a selection of functional regulatory structures and it has enabled us to propose hypotheses concerning possible links between these regulatory elements and the DNA-topology (i.e., supercoiling, curvature, flexibility and base-pair stability) in the regulation of gene expression in the shrunken genome of Buchnera.

Buchnera aphidicola; Genome reduction; Transcription regulation; DNA-topology; Nucleoid associated proteins (NAPs)