Table of Contents

July 2009

Cicadas feed exclusively on plant xylem sap. To supplement their nutrient-poor diet, they have developed elaborate symbioses with bacteria. An article in this issue of PLoS Genetics (see McCutcheon et al., 10.1371/journal.pgen.1000565) describes the genomic properties of a remarkable bacterium that is symbiotic in cicadas. This α-Proteobacteria, called Hodgkinia cicadicola, has the smallest reported genome of any cellular organism, with only 188 genes in total. Although all other small bacterial genomes are guanine-cytosine (GC)-poor, this one is GC-rich, resulting in an unprecedented combination of genomic features. Additionally, Hodgkinia uses an alternative genetic code, in which UGA has been reassigned from stop to tryptophan.

Image Credit: Adam Fleishman (Cometmoth Sight and Sound,


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