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Curr Biol. 1998 Oct 8;8(20):1102-9.

Chromosome arrangement within a bacterium.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology The Biological Laboratories Harvard University Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.



The contour length of the circular chromosome of bacteria is greater than a millimeter but must be accommodated within a cell that is only a few micrometers in length. Bacteria do not have nucleosomes and little is known about the arrangement of the chromosome inside a prokaryotic cell.


We have investigated the arrangement of chromosomal DNA within the bacterium Bacillus subtilis by using fluorescence microscopy to visualize two sites on the chromosome simultaneously in the same cell. Indirect immunofluorescence with antibodies against the chromosome partition protein Spo0J were used to visualize the replication origin region of the chromosome. Green fluorescent protein fused to the lactose operon repressor Lacl was used to decorate tandem copies of the lactose operon operator lacO. A cassette of tandem operators was separately inserted into the chromosome near the origin (359 degrees), near the replication terminus (181 degrees), or at two points in between (90 degrees and 270 degrees). The results show that the layout of the chromosome is dynamic but is principally arranged with the origin and terminus maximally apart and the quarter points of the chromosome in between.


The use of cytological methods to visualize two chromosomal sites in the same cell has provided a glimpse of the arrangement of a bacterial chromosome. We conclude that, to a first approximation, the folding of the bacterial chromosome is consistent with, and may preserve, the linear order of genes on the DNA.

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