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Trends Microbiol. 2009 Feb;17(2):47-53. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2008.11.003. Epub 2009 Jan 21.

Genomic islands are dynamic, ancient integrative elements in bacterial evolution.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716, USA.


Acquisition of genomic islands plays a central part in bacterial evolution as a mechanism of diversification and adaptation. Genomic islands are non-self-mobilizing integrative and excisive elements that encode diverse functional characteristics but all contain a recombination module comprised of an integrase, associated attachment sites and, in some cases, a recombination directionality factor. Here, we discuss how a group of related genomic islands are evolutionarily ancient elements unrelated to plasmids, phages, integrons and integrative conjugative elements. In addition, we explore the diversity of genomic islands and their insertion sites among Gram-negative bacteria and discuss why they integrate at a limited number of tRNA genes.

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