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Nucleic Acids Res. 2010 Jun;38(10):3263-74. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkq058. Epub 2010 Feb 11.

Operon structure of Staphylococcus aureus.

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Medical Microbiology, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, the Netherlands.


In bacteria, gene regulation is one of the fundamental characteristics of survival, colonization and pathogenesis. Operons play a key role in regulating expression of diverse genes involved in metabolism and virulence. However, operon structures in pathogenic bacteria have been determined only by in silico approaches that are dependent on factors such as intergenic distances and terminator/promoter sequences. Knowledge of operon structures is crucial to fully understand the pathophysiology of infections. Presently, transcriptome data obtained from growth curves in a defined medium were used to predict operons in Staphylococcus aureus. This unbiased approach and the use of five highly reproducible biological replicates resulted in 93.5% significantly regulated genes. These data, combined with Pearson's correlation coefficients of the transcriptional profiles, enabled us to accurately compile 93% of the genome in operon structures. A total of 1640 genes of different functional classes were identified in operons. Interestingly, we found several operons containing virulence genes and showed synergistic effects for two complement convertase inhibitors transcribed in one operon. This is the first experimental approach to fully identify operon structures in S. aureus. It forms the basis for further in vitro regulation studies that will profoundly advance the understanding of bacterial pathophysiology in vivo.

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