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J Mol Biol. 2012 Jun 22;419(5):369-86. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2012.03.009. Epub 2012 Mar 21.

Genomic organization of evolutionarily correlated genes in bacteria: limits and strategies.

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Epigenomics Project/Institute of Systems and Synthetic Biology, Genopole, CNRS, University of Evry, 91030 Evry, France.


The need for efficient molecular interplay in time and space within a cell imposes strong constraints that could be partially relaxed if relative gene positions along chromosomes were appropriate. Comparative genomics studies have demonstrated the short-scale conservation of gene proximity along bacterial chromosomes. Additionally, the long-range periodic positioning of evolutionarily correlated genes within Escherichia coli has recently been highlighted. To gain further insight into these different genetic organizations, we examined the compromise between chromosomal proximity and periodicity for all available eubacterial genomes by evaluating groups of evolutionarily correlated genes from a benchmark data set. In enterobacteria, strict chromosomal proximity is found to be limited to groups under 20 genes, whereas periodicity is significant in all groups over 50. The E. coli K12 genome bears 511 periodic genes (12% of the genome), whose orthologs are found to be periodic in all eubacterial phyla. These periodic genes predominantly function in macromolecular synthesis and spatial organization of cellular components. They are enriched in essential and housekeeping genes and tend to often be constitutively expressed. On this basis, it is argued that chromosomal proximity and periodicity are ubiquitous complementary genomic strategies that favor the build-up of local concentrations of co-functional molecules. In particular, the periodic layout may facilitate chromosome folding to spatially organize the construction of major cell components. The transition at 20 genes is reminiscent of the size of the longest operons and of topological microdomains. The range for which DNA neighborhood optimizes biochemical interactions might therefore be defined by DNA topology.

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