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MBio. 2018 Aug 21;9(4). pii: e01371-18. doi: 10.1128/mBio.01371-18.

Periodic Variation of Mutation Rates in Bacterial Genomes Associated with Replication Timing.

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Department of Cell and Systems Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Graduate Program in Microbiology, University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire, USA.
Department of Bioinformatics and Genomics, University of North Carolina-Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA.
Center for Mechanisms of Evolution, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA.
Graduate Program in Microbiology, University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire, USA
Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.
Center for Evolutionary Biology and Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.


The causes and consequences of spatiotemporal variation in mutation rates remain to be explored in nearly all organisms. Here we examine relationships between local mutation rates and replication timing in three bacterial species whose genomes have multiple chromosomes: Vibrio fischeri, Vibrio cholerae, and Burkholderia cenocepacia Following five mutation accumulation experiments with these bacteria conducted in the near absence of natural selection, the genomes of clones from each lineage were sequenced and analyzed to identify variation in mutation rates and spectra. In lineages lacking mismatch repair, base substitution mutation rates vary in a mirrored wave-like pattern on opposing replichores of the large chromosomes of V. fischeri and V. cholerae, where concurrently replicated regions experience similar base substitution mutation rates. The base substitution mutation rates on the small chromosome are less variable in both species but occur at similar rates to those in the concurrently replicated regions of the large chromosome. Neither nucleotide composition nor frequency of nucleotide motifs differed among regions experiencing high and low base substitution rates, which along with the inferred ~800-kb wave period suggests that the source of the periodicity is not sequence specific but rather a systematic process related to the cell cycle. These results support the notion that base substitution mutation rates are likely to vary systematically across many bacterial genomes, which exposes certain genes to elevated deleterious mutational load.IMPORTANCE That mutation rates vary within bacterial genomes is well known, but the detailed study of these biases has been made possible only recently with contemporary sequencing methods. We applied these methods to understand how bacterial genomes with multiple chromosomes, like those of Vibrio and Burkholderia, might experience heterogeneous mutation rates because of their unusual replication and the greater genetic diversity found on smaller chromosomes. This study captured thousands of mutations and revealed wave-like rate variation that is synchronized with replication timing and not explained by sequence context. The scale of this rate variation over hundreds of kilobases of DNA strongly suggests that a temporally regulated cellular process may generate wave-like variation in mutation risk. These findings add to our understanding of how mutation risk is distributed across bacterial and likely also eukaryotic genomes, owing to their highly conserved replication and repair machinery.


Vibrio cholerae; Vibrio fischeri; genome organization; mutation rate; periodicity

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