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Microbiol Rev. 1990 Dec;54(4):502-39.

Organization of the bacterial chromosome.

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Department of Biology, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania 18015.


Recent progress in studies on the bacterial chromosome is summarized. Although the greatest amount of information comes from studies on Escherichia coli, reports on studies of many other bacteria are also included. A compilation of the sizes of chromosomal DNAs as determined by pulsed-field electrophoresis is given, as well as a discussion of factors that affect gene dosage, including redundancy of chromosomes on the one hand and inactivation of chromosomes on the other hand. The distinction between a large plasmid and a second chromosome is discussed. Recent information on repeated sequences and chromosomal rearrangements is presented. The growing understanding of limitations on the rearrangements that can be tolerated by bacteria and those that cannot is summarized, and the sensitive region flanking the terminator loci is described. Sources and types of genetic variation in bacteria are listed, from simple single nucleotide mutations to intragenic and intergenic recombinations. A model depicting the dynamics of the evolution and genetic activity of the bacterial chromosome is described which entails acquisition by recombination of clonal segments within the chromosome. The model is consistent with the existence of only a few genetic types of E. coli worldwide. Finally, there is a summary of recent reports on lateral genetic exchange across great taxonomic distances, yet another source of genetic variation and innovation.

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