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Nucleic Acids Res. 2008 Aug;36(14):4529-48. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkn372. Epub 2008 Jun 28.

Survey of group I and group II introns in 29 sequenced genomes of the Bacillus cereus group: insights into their spread and evolution.

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Laboratory for Microbial Dynamics (LaMDa), Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.


Group I and group II introns are different catalytic self-splicing and mobile RNA elements that contribute to genome dynamics. In this study, we have analyzed their distribution and evolution in 29 sequenced genomes from the Bacillus cereus group of bacteria. Introns were of different structural classes and evolutionary origins, and a large number of nearly identical elements are shared between multiple strains of different sources, suggesting recent lateral transfers and/or that introns are under a strong selection pressure. Altogether, 73 group I introns were identified, inserted in essential genes from the chromosome or newly described prophages, including the first elements found within phages in bacterial plasmids. Notably, bacteriophages are an important source for spreading group I introns between strains. Furthermore, 77 group II introns were found within a diverse set of chromosomal and plasmidic genes. Unusual findings include elements located within conserved DNA metabolism and repair genes and one intron inserted within a novel retroelement. Group II introns are mainly disseminated via plasmids and can subsequently invade the host genome, in particular by coupling mobility with host cell replication. This study reveals a very high diversity and variability of mobile introns in B. cereus group strains.

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