Genome Reduction Promotes Increase in Protein Functional Complexity in Bacteria
Obligate pathogenic and endosymbiotic bacteria typically experience gene loss due to functional redundancy, asexuality, and genetic drift. We hypothesize that reduced genomes increase their functional complexity through protein multitasking, in which many genes adopt new roles to counteract gene loss. Comparisons of interaction networks among six bacteria that have varied genome sizes (Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Treponema pallidum, Helicobacter pylori, Campylobacter jejuni, Synechocystis sp., and Mycobacterium tuberculosis) reveal that proteins in small genomes interact with proteins from a wider range of functions than do their orthologs in larger genomes. This suggests that surviving proteins form increasingly complex functional relationships to compensate for genes that are lost.