DNA recombination and repair in Wolbachia: RecA and related proteins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Wolbachia is an obligate intracellular bacterium that has undergone extensive genomic streamlining in its arthropod and nematode hosts. Because the gene encoding the bacterial DNA recombination/repair protein RecA is not essential in Escherichia coli, abundant expression of this protein in a mosquito cell line persistently infected with Wolbachia strain wStri was unexpected. However, RecA’s role in the lytic cycle of bacteriophage lambda provides an explanation for retention of recA in strains known to encode lambda-like WO prophages. To examine DNA recombination/repair capacities in Wolbachia, a systematic examination of RecA and related proteins in complete or nearly complete Wolbachia genomes from supergroups A, B, C, D, E, F, J and S was undertaken. Genes encoding proteins including RecA, RecF, RecO, RecR, RecG and Holliday junction resolvases RuvA, RuvB and RuvC are uniformly absent from Wolbachia in supergroup C and have reduced representation in supergroups D and J, suggesting that recombination and repair activities are compromised in nematode-associated Wolbachia, relative to strains that infect arthropods. An exception is filarial Wolbachia strain wMhie, assigned to supergroup F, which occurs in a nematode host from a poikilothermic lizard. Genes encoding LexA and error-prone polymerases are absent from all Wolbachia genomes, suggesting that the SOS functions induced by RecA-mediated activation of LexA do not occur, despite retention of genes encoding a few proteins that respond to LexA induction in E. coli. Three independent E. coli accessions converge on a single Wolbachia UvrD helicase, which interacts with mismatch repair proteins MutS and MutL, encoded in nearly all Wolbachia genomes. With the exception of MutL, which has been mapped to a eukaryotic association module in Phage WO, proteins involved in recombination/repair are uniformly represented by single protein annotations. Putative phage-encoded MutL proteins are restricted to Wolbachia supergroups A and B and show higher amino acid identity than chromosomally encoded MutL orthologs. This analysis underscores differences between nematode and arthropod-associated Wolbachia and describes aspects of DNA metabolism that potentially impact development of procedures for transformation and genetic manipulation of Wolbachia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)437-456
Number of pages20
JournalMolecular Genetics and Genomics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the University of Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station, St. Paul, MN.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH, DE part of Springer Nature.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Annotated genomes
  • DNA recombination and repair
  • Intracellular alpha-proteobacterium
  • WO phage
  • Wolbachia
  • Wolbachia supergroups

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


Dive into the research topics of 'DNA recombination and repair in Wolbachia: RecA and related proteins'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this