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Nucleic Acids Res. 2002 Dec 15;30(24):5517-28.

Improving the predictive value of the competence transcription factor (ComK) binding site in Bacillus subtilis using a genomic approach.

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Department of Genetics, Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute, University of Groningen, Kerklaan 30, 9751 NN Haren, The Netherlands.


Generally, the presence of a consensus sequence in the promoter of a gene is taken as indication for regulation by the transcription factor that binds to this sequence. In light of the recent developments in genome research, we were interested to what extent this supposition is valid. We examined the relationship between the presence of a binding site for ComK, the competence transcription factor of Bacillus subtilis, and actual transcriptional activation by ComK. Bacillus subtilis contains 1062 putative ComK-binding sites (K-boxes) in its genome. We employed DNA macroarrays to identify ComK-activated genes, and found that the presence of a K-box is an unreliable predictor for regulation. Only approximately 8% of the genes containing a K-box in the putative promoter region are regulated by ComK. The predictive value of a K-box could be improved by taking into consideration the degree of deviation from the K-box consensus sequence, the presence of extra ComK-binding motifs and the positions of RNA polymerase-binding sites. Finally, many of the ComK-activated genes show no apparent function related to the competence process. Based on our findings, we propose that the ComK-dependent activation of several genes might serve no biological purpose and can be considered 'evolutionary noise'.

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