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Sci Prog. 2006;89(Pt 3-4):151-66.

DNA supercoiling and bacterial gene expression.

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University of Dublin, Trinity College, Ireland.


DNA in bacterial cells is maintained in a negatively supercoiled state. This contributes to the organization of the bacterial nucleoid and also influences the global gene expression pattern in the cell through modulatory effects on transcription. Supercoiling arises as a result of changes to the linking number of the relaxed double-stranded DNA molecule and is set and reset by the action of DNA topoisomerases. This process is subject to a multitude of influences that are usually summarized as environmental stress. Responsiveness of linking number change to stress offers the promise of a mechanism for the wholesale adjustment of the transcription programme of the cell as the bacterium experiences different environments. Recent data from DNA microarray experiments support this proposition. The emerging picture is one of DNA supercoiling acting at or near the apex of a regulatory hierarchy where it collaborates with nucleoid-associated proteins and transcription factors to determine the gene expression profile of the cell.

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