Small genome of Candidatus Blochmannia, the bacterial endosymbiont of Camponotus, implies irreversible specialization to an intracellular lifestyle
Blochmannia (Candidatus Blochmannia gen. nov.) is the primary bacterial endosymbiont of the ant genus Camponotus. Like other obligate endosymbionts of insects, Blochmannia occurs exclusively within eukaryotic cells and has experienced long-term vertical transmission through host lineages. In this study, PFGE was used to estimates the genome size of Blochmannia as approximately 800 kb, which is significantly smaller than its free-living relatives in the enterobacteria. This small genome implies that Blochmannia has deleted most of the genetic machinery of related free-living bacteria. Due to restricted gene exchange in obligate endosymbionts, the substantial gene loss in Blochmannia and other insect mutualists may reflect irreversible specialization to a host cellular environment.