UM Publishes Research on Unusual Gene Evolution in Bacteria

Chilean Cicada bug

 University of Montana researchers have made another discovery at the cellular level to help understand the basic processes of all life on our planet – this time within the unusual bacteria that has lived inside cicada insects since dinosaurs roamed Earth.

During the past 70 million years, the bacteria underwent extreme adaptations to live within the insects’ bodies, losing between an estimated 95 to 97 percent of their genes and resulting in some of the smallest genomes known to any organisms. In the process, they lost the ability to live anywhere outside of cicadas.

“Cicada symbiotic complexes are very different from any other known organism,” said Matt Campbell, a UM graduate student who studies cicadas in UM biology Associate Professor John McCutcheon’s lab, based in the Division of Biological Sciences.