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Curr Opin Microbiol. 2006 Oct;9(5):526-31. Epub 2006 Aug 28.

Insertion sequences in prokaryotic genomes.

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Laboratoire de Microbiologie et Génétique Moléculaires (UMR5100 CNRS) Campus Université Paul Sabatier 118, Route de Narbonne, F-31062 Toulouse Cedex, France.


Insertion sequences (ISs) are small DNA segments that are often capable of moving neighbouring genes. Over 1500 different ISs have been identified to date. They can have large and spectacular effects in shaping and reshuffling the bacterial genome. Recent studies have provided dramatic examples of such IS activity, including massive IS expansion during the emergence of some pathogenic bacterial species and the intimate involvement of ISs in assembling genes into complex plasmid structures. However, a global understanding of their impact on bacterial genomes requires detailed knowledge of their distribution across the eubacterial and archaeal kingdoms, understanding their partition between chromosomes and extra-chromosomal elements (e.g. plasmids and viruses) and the factors which influence this, and appreciation of the different transposition mechanisms in action, the target preferences and the host factors that influence transposition. In addition, defective (non- autonomous) elements, which can be complemented by related active elements in the same cell, are often overlooked in genome annotations but also contribute to the evolution of genome organisation.

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