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Curr Opin Microbiol. 2001 Oct;4(5):565-9.

Integrons: natural tools for bacterial genome evolution.

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Unité de Programmation Moléculaire et Toxicologie Génétique, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique URA 1444, Département des Biotechnologies, Institut Pasteur, 25 rue du Dr Roux, 75724 Paris, France.


Integrons were first identified as the primary mechanism for antibiotic resistance gene capture and dissemination among Gram-negative bacteria. More recently, their role in genome evolution has been extended with the discovery of larger integron structures, the super-integrons, as genuine components of the genomes of many species throughout the gamma-proteobacterial radiation. The functional platforms of these integrons appear to be sedentary, whereas their gene cassette contents are highly variable. Nevertheless, the gene cassettes for which an activity has been experimentally demonstrated encode proteins related to simple adaptive functions and their recruitment is seen as providing the bacterial host with a selective advantage. The widespread occurrence of the integron system among Gram-negative bacteria is discussed, with special focus on the super-integrons. Some of the adaptive functions encoded by these genes are also reviewed, and implications of integron-mediated genome evolution in the emergence of novel bacterial species are highlighted.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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