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Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2004 Apr;64(2):154-74. Epub 2003 Dec 20.

Divergence of mobile genetic elements involved in the distribution of xenobiotic-catabolic capacity.

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Biotechnology Research Center, The University of Tokyo, 1-1-1 Yayoi, Bunkyo-ku, 113-8657, Tokyo, Japan.


Bacteria adapt rapidly to environmental stimuli, such as exposure to xenobiotics. Mobile genetic elements (MGEs) play a major role in such bacterial adaptation, via the dispersal of catabolic capacity; and, in fact, genes that encode the degradation enzymes for xenobiotics are often located on MGEs. The list of reported catabolic MGEs keeps growing as researchers continue to isolate and characterize xenobiotic degraders and the corresponding catabolic genes. Major catabolic MGEs include (conjugative) plasmids, transposons, and conjugative transposons. Catabolic transposons can be divided into class I elements (composite transposons) and class II elements (Tn 3 family transposons). This review includes a comprehensive list of naturally occurring discrete catabolic MGEs, together with a brief description for each. While MGEs are often rather large, genome-wide or large-scale sequence analyses have provided useful information on the whole genetic structure of MGEs, with clues to their function (transfer, maintenance, catabolism, etc.) and behavior in a complex natural environment. This review also gives an insight into MGE functions, based on the complete sequencing of several catabolic plasmids and two Pseudomonas genomes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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