Effects of DNA Size on Transformation and Recombination Efficiencies in Xylella fastidiosa
Horizontally transferred DNA acquired through transformation and recombination has the potential to contribute to the diversity and evolution of naturally competent bacteria. However, many different factors affect the efficiency with which DNA can be transformed and recombined. In this study, we determined how the size of both homologous and nonhomologous regions affects transformation and recombination efficiencies in Xylella fastidiosa, a naturally competent generalist pathogen responsible for many emerging plant diseases. Our experimental data indicate that 96 bp of flanking homology is sufficient to initiate recombination, with recombination efficiencies increasing exponentially with the size of the homologous flanking region up to 1 kb. Recombination efficiencies also decreased with the size of the nonhomologous insert, with no recombination detected when 6 kb of nonhomologous DNA was flanked on either side by 1 kb of homologous sequences. Upon analyzing sequenced X. fastidiosa subsp. fastidiosa genomes for evidence of allele conversion, we estimated the mean size of recombination events to be 1,906 bp, with each event modifying, on average, 1.79% of the nucleotides in the recombined region. There is increasing evidence that horizontally acquired genes significantly affect the genetic diversity of X. fastidiosa, and DNA acquired through natural transformation could be a prominent mode of this horizontal transfer.