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In this study, the alignment of amino acid sequence from carotenoid-biosynthesis

genes of pea aphid was compared with those of fungus Ustilago, fungus Gibberella,

bacterium Staphylococcus, bacterium Pantoea, and plant Arabidopsis to determine

whether they were acquired through horizontal gene transfer or not. Similarities in amino

acids were tabulated in Table 1.

The comparison of amino acid sequences for carotenoid-biosynthesis genes

showed that Acyrthosiphon was most similar to Ustilago with 38 shared amino acids,

followed by Gibberella with 35 shared amino acids, Staphylococcus with 25 shared amino

acids, Pantoea with 20 shared amino acids, and Arabidopsis with 18 amino acids, as

shown in Table 2.

These genotypic similarities of aphids to fungi, bacteria, and plant for carotenoid-

biosynthesis also lend to support the hypothesis that aphids acquired the gene for this

polypeptide via horizontal gene transfer. This transfer could have occurred through

transformation, in which bacteria take up genetic material from its environment, or

conjugation, in which bacteria transfer its genes to another cell (Burmeister, 2015).

Previous studies have reported that horizontal gene transfer allows transmission of genes

as extensive as up to kingdom-level (Danchin, 2016).

Although Acyrthosiphon, Ustilago, Gibberella, Pantoea, Arabidopsis are distantly

related, they possess closely related carotenoid-biosynthesis genes. Nevertheless, these

similarities suggest that Acyrthosiphon is more related to carotenoid-biosynthesizing fungi

(Ustillago and Gibberella) than it is to bacteria (Staphylococcus and Panoea) and plant

(Arabidopsis) possessing the same abilities. This relatedness correlate with a

phylogenetic tree generated from the the study of Moran & Jarvik (2010). As genotypic
similarities suggested, carotenoid-biosynthesis genes of aphids are most likely derived

from those of fungi such as Ustilago, rather than bacteria or plant, through horizontal gene

transfer (Moran & Jarvik, 2010).

One possibility that could account for the similarities of amino acid sequences for

carotenoid-biosynthesis genes is that an ancestral bacteria possessing the ability to

synthesize carotenoid have transferred its carotenoid-biosynthesis genes to fungi, plants,

and other bacterium through horizontal gene transfer. Previous studies have reported

that prokaryote-eukaryote horizontal gene transfer usually occur through nuclear

acquisitions of genes from the mitochondria and chloroplast organelles or through

symbiotic relationships (Sieber, Bromley, & Dunning Hotopp, 2017). Series of insertion

and deletion events in the genes may have occurred over time. Carotenoid-biosynthesis

genes of fungi were transferred through horizontal gene transfer to aphids (Moran &

Jarvik, 2010).

It is recommended to use and examine sequence data from other polypeptides

involved in carotenoid biosynthesis to further investigate the transmission of carotenoid-

biosynthesis genes among aphids, fungi, bacteria, and plant.

Burmeister, A. R. (2015). Horizontal Gene Transfer. Evolution, Medicine, and Public


Health. 193–194. doi:10.1093/emph/eov018

Danchin, E. G. J. (2016). Lateral gene transfer in eukaryotes: tip of the iceberg or of the
ice cube?. BMC Biology, 14(101). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12915-016-0330-x.
3Moran, N. A., Jarvik, T. (2010). Lateral Transfer of Genes from Fungi Underlies
Carotenoid Production in Aphids. Science, 328(624). doi:
10.1126/science.1187113.
4Sieber, K. B., Bromley, R. E., Dunning Hotopp, J. C. (2017). Lateral gene transfer
between prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Experimental Cell Research.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.yexcr.2017.02.009.