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Microbiol Spectr. 2014 Dec;2(6). doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.MDNA3-0008-2014.

Biology of Three ICE Families: SXT/R391, ICEBs1, and ICESt1/ICESt3.

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Département de Biologie, Faculté des Sciences, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, QC, J1K 2R1 Canada.


Integrative and Conjugative Elements (ICEs) are bacterial mobile genetic elements that play a key role in bacterial genomes dynamics and evolution. ICEs are widely distributed among virtually all bacterial genera. Recent extensive studies have unraveled their high diversity and complexity. The present review depicts the general conserved features of ICEs and describes more precisely three major families of ICEs that have been extensively studied in the past decade for their biology, their evolution and their impact on genomes dynamics. First, the large SXT/R391 family of ICEs disseminates antibiotic resistance genes and drives the exchange of mobilizable genomic islands (MGIs) between many enteric pathogens such as Vibrio cholerae. Second, ICEBs1 of Bacillus subtilis is the most well understood ICE of Gram-positive bacteria, notably regarding the regulation of its dissemination and its initially unforeseen extrachromosomal replication, which could be a common feature of ICEs of both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. Finally, ICESt1 and ICESt3 of Streptococcus thermophilus are the prototypes of a large family of ICEs widely distributed among various streptococci. These ICEs carry an original regulation module that associates regulators related to those of both SXT/R391 and ICEBs1. Study of ICESt1 and ICESt3 uncovered the cis-mobilization of related genomic islands (CIMEs) by a mechanism called accretion-mobilization, which likely represents a paradigm for the evolution of many ICEs and genomic islands. These three major families of ICEs give a glimpse about ICEs dynamics and their high impact on bacterial adaptation.

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