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Microbiology. 2004 Jun;150(Pt 6):1609-1627. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.26974-0.

The replication-related organization of bacterial genomes.

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Atelier de Bioinformatique, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, 12, Rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris, and Unité Génétique des Génomes Bactériens, Institut Pasteur, 28 rue du Dr Roux, 75724 Paris Cedex 15, France.


The replication of the chromosome is among the most essential functions of the bacterial cell and influences many other cellular mechanisms, from gene expression to cell division. Yet the way it impacts on the bacterial chromosome was not fully acknowledged until the availability of complete genomes allowed one to look upon genomes as more than bags of genes. Chromosomal replication includes a set of asymmetric mechanisms, among which are a division in a lagging and a leading strand and a gradient between early and late replicating regions. These differences are the causes of many of the organizational features observed in bacterial genomes, in terms of both gene distribution and sequence composition along the chromosome. When asymmetries or gradients increase in some genomes, e.g. due to a different composition of the DNA polymerase or to a higher growth rate, so do the corresponding biases. As some of the features of the chromosome structure seem to be under strong selection, understanding such biases is important for the understanding of chromosome organization and adaptation. Inversely, understanding chromosome organization may shed further light on questions relating to replication and cell division. Ultimately, the understanding of the interplay between these different elements will allow a better understanding of bacterial genetics and evolution.

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