Selfish, mobile genes in honeybee gut bacteria

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för biologisk grundutbildning

Abstract: Transposons are selfish, mobile genetic elements, moving within the genome. The transposase genemakes this possible, as it codes for the enzyme that catalyzes the movement. In the case of bacteria,they can also move horizontally between individual bacteria, and sometimes even between species.By default, they are a burden for the host organism, coding for a protein that the host does not need.They also pose the risk of disabling the host’s crucial genes by inserting themselves into it.Transposons are under some pressure to benefit the host, to help propagate themselves moreeffectively. And some transposons have indeed evolved to benefit the host. Lactobacillus kunkeei is a bacterial species known to reside in honeybee guts. It is known for itsrole in honey preservation and wine spoilage. The genome of L. kunkeei is reduced because it is asymbiont, however it contains an unusually high amount of transposons in its genome. In this study, the transposase genes (transposon enzymes) found in L. kunkeei are studied andcategorized. The L. kunkeei have been extracted from honeybees (Apis mellifera). The honeybeesthemselves have been collected from the islands Åland and Gotland. This study focuses on the transposase genes that come in pairs, one after another in the genome.Transposase genes were identified using annotation software and orthology-based methods. Theannotation software provides numbering for the genes, which allows finding paired genes. Thepaired genes were categorized based on alignments and phylogenetic software. Pseudogenizedtransposons were identified based on length and/or clustering into triplets. A total of 766 paired transposase genes were found. The transposase genes were found to take up1.9% of the genome, on average. A low level of diversity has been found when performingalignments and generating phylogenetic trees. The positions of the transposase genes are generallyconserved within phylogenetic groups. Pseudogenization has been detected for some transposasegenes – 4.5 per genome, on average. All of the studied transposons belong to the IS3 family, whichis a family of Class I transposons.

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