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FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2009 Mar;33(2):411-29. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6976.2008.00154.x. Epub 2008 Dec 9.

A phylogenomic analysis of bacterial helix-turn-helix transcription factors.

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Instituto de Biologia Molecular e Celular, Universidade do Porto, Porto, Portugal.


Perception by each individual organism of its environment's parameters is a key factor for survival. In a constantly changing environment, the ability to assess nutrient sources and potentially stressful situations constitutes the main basis for ecological adaptability. Transcription regulators are key decision-making proteins that mediate the communication between environmental conditions and DNA transcription through a multifaceted network. The parallel study of these regulators across microbial organisms adapted to contrasting biotopes constitutes an unexplored approach to understand the evolution of genome plasticity and cell function. We present here a reassessment of bacterial helix-turn-helix regulator diversity in different organisms from a multidisciplinary perspective, on the interface that links metabolism, ecology and phylogeny, further sustained by a statistically based approach. The present revision brought to light evidence of patterns among families of regulators, suggesting that multiple selective forces modulate the number and kind of regulators present in a given genome. Besides being an important step towards understanding the adaptive traits that influence the microbial responses to the varying environment on the very first and most prevalent line of reaction, the transcription of DNA, this approach is a promising tool to extract biological trends from genomic databases.

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