Cicada endosymbionts have tRNAs that are correctly processed despite having genomes that do not encode all of the tRNA processing machinery

James T. Van Leuven, Meng Mao, Denghui D. Xing, Gordon M. Bennett, John P. McCutcheon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Gene loss and genome reduction are defining characteristics of endosymbiotic bacteria. The most highly reduced endosymbiont genomes have lost numerous essential genes related to core cellular processes such as replication, transcription, and translation. Computational gene predictions performed for the genomes of the two bacterial symbionts of the cicada Diceroprocta semicincta, “Can-didatus Hodgkinia cicadicola” (Alphaproteobacteria) and “Ca. Sulcia muelleri” (Bacte-roidetes), have found only 26 and 16 tRNA genes and 15 and 10 aminoacyl tRNA synthetase genes, respectively. Furthermore, the original “Ca. Hodgkinia cicadicola” genome annotation was missing several essential genes involved in tRNA processing, such as those encoding RNase P and CCA tRNA nucleotidyltransferase as well as several RNA editing enzymes required for tRNA maturation. How these cicada endosymbionts perform basic translation-related processes remains unknown. Here, by sequencing eukaryotic mRNAs and total small RNAs, we show that the limited tRNA set predicted by computational annotation of “Ca. Sulcia muelleri” and “Ca. Hodgkinia cicadicola” is likely correct. Furthermore, we show that despite the absence of genes encoding tRNA processing activities in the symbiont genomes, symbiont tRNAs have correctly processed 5' and 3' ends and seem to undergo nucleotide modification. Surprisingly, we found that most “Ca. Hodgkinia cicadicola” and “Ca. Sulcia muelleri” tRNAs exist as tRNA halves. We hypothesize that “Ca. Sulcia muelleri” and “Ca. Hodgkinia cicadicola” tRNAs function in bacterial translation but require host-encoded enzymes to do so. IMPORTANCE The smallest bacterial genomes, in the range of about 0.1 to 0.5 million base pairs, are commonly found in the nutritional endosymbionts of insects. These tiny genomes are missing genes that encode proteins and RNAs required for the translation of mRNAs, one of the most highly conserved and important cellular processes. In this study, we found that the bacterial endosymbionts of cicadas have genomes which encode incomplete tRNA sets and lack genes required for tRNA processing. Nevertheless, we found that endosymbiont tRNAs are correctly processed at their 5' and 3' ends and, surprisingly, that mostly exist as tRNA halves. We hypothesize that the cicada host must supply its symbionts with these missing tRNA processing activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01950-18
JournalmBio
Volume10
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2019

Keywords

  • Endosymbionts
  • Evolutionary biology
  • Genomics
  • RNAseq
  • Symbiosis
  • tRNA maturation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology

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