News of the WeekThe Biology of Genomes, 5–9 May 2009, Cold Spring Harbor, New York

The Bug and the Bacterium: Interdependent Genomes

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Science  05 Jun 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5932, pp. 1253
DOI: 10.1126/science.324_1253

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The newly sequenced DNA of the pea aphid, a common pest of legume crops, reflects a long history of give-and-take between the genomes of the bug and a tiny bacterium called Buchnera aphidicola, scientists reported at the Biology of Genomes meeting, held 5 to 9 May at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. Like other aphids, Acyrthosiphon pisum live off plant sap, a sugary mix low in protein. To make up for this nutritional shortfall, the insects depend on their microbial guests to supply essential amino acids. In return, the pea aphid has given up some of the genes that normally help fend off infections by Gram-negative bacteria such as Buchnera.