Isolation and characterization of a linear plasmid from the entomopathogenic fungus Ascosphaera apis.


An extrachromosomal DNA plasmid was isolated from both mating types of the entomopathogenic fungus Ascosphaera apis and named pAaL. The subculture in which pAaL was first identified originated from mummified honey bee larvae from an apiary in Wyoming. Very similar, homologous plasmids were found in 9 out of 10 of isolates collected from diverse geographic locations. The plasmid is found inside the mitochondria, has the same buoyant density as mitochondrial DNA in bisbenzamide--CsCl gradients, and does not contain sequences homologous to either mitochondrial DNA or genomic DNA. The plasmid is linear, double-stranded, of 12 kilobase pair, and has a higher copy number than the mitochondrial DNA. Endonuclease and exonuclease digestions suggest that an inverted repeat is probably present at each terminus and that pAaL has two blocked 5' ends, probably due to the presence of terminal binding proteins. Restriction site data showed pAaL to be AT-rich. There were no apparent differences in the growth rate, culture appearance, and reproductive cycle of plasmid-bearing or plasmid-free A. apis isolates. pAaL was stably inherited in the plasmid-free strains, but it was lost in the progeny of crosses and reciprocal crosses between the plasmid-free strain and plasmid-bearing strains. The biological function of this plasmid has not yet been determined.