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Studying the organization of genes encoding plant cell wall degrading enzymes in Chrysomela tremula provides insights into a leaf beetle genome

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Abstract

The ability of herbivorous beetles from the superfamilies Chrysomeloidea and Curculionoidea to degrade plant cell wall polysaccharides has only recently begun to be appreciated. The presence of plant cell wall degrading enzymes (PCWDEs) in the beetle's digestive tract makes this degradation possible. Sequences encoding these beetle-derived PCWDEs were originally identified from transcriptomes and strikingly resemble those of saprophytic and phytopathogenic microorganisms, raising questions about their origin; e.g. are they insect- or microorganism-derived? To demonstrate unambiguously that the genes encoding PCWDEs found in beetle transcriptomes are indeed of insect origin, we generated a bacterial artificial chromosome library from the genome of the leaf beetle Chrysomela tremula, containing 18 432 clones with an average size of 143 kb. After hybridizing this library with probes derived from 12 C. tremula PCWDE-encoding genes and sequencing the positive clones, we demonstrated that the latter genes are encoded by the insect's genome and are surrounded by genes possessing orthologues in the genome of Tribolium castaneum as well as in three other beetle genomes. Our analyses showed that although the level of overall synteny between C. tremula and T. castaneum seems high, the degree of microsynteny between both species is relatively low, in contrast to the more closely related Colorado potato beetle.

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