Horizontal transfers and gene losses in the phospholipid pathway of bartonella reveal clues about early ecological niches

Qiyun Zhu, Michael Kosoy, Kevin J. Olival, Katharina Dittmar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Bartonellae are mammalian pathogens vectored by blood-feeding arthropods. Although of increasing medical importance, little is knownabout their ecological past, and host associations are underexplored. Previous studies suggest an influence of horizontal gene transfers in ecological niche colonization by acquisition of host pathogenicity genes. We here expand these analyses to metabolic pathways of 28 Bartonella genomes, and experimentally explore the distribution of bartonellae in 21 species of blood-feeding arthropods. Across genomes, repeated gene losses and horizontal gains in the phospholipid pathwaywere found. The evolutionary timing of these patterns suggests functional consequences likely leading to an early intracellular lifestyle for stem bartonellae. Comparative phylogenomic analyses discover three independent lineage-specific reacquisitions of a core metabolic gene - NAD(P)H-dependent glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (gpsA) - from Gammaproteobacteria and Epsilonproteobacteria. Transferred genes are significantly closely related to invertebrate Arsenophonus-, and Serratia-like endosymbionts, andmammalian Helicobacter-like pathogens, supporting a cellular association with arthropods and mammals at the base of extant Bartonella spp. Our studies suggest that the horizontal reacquisitions had a key impact on bartonellae lineage specific ecological and functional evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2156-2169
Number of pages14
JournalGenome biology and evolution
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Bartonella
  • Gene loss
  • Horizontal gene transfer
  • Host association
  • Intracellularity
  • Phospholipid pathway

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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