Publication Details

Boucher, Y., Nesbo, C. L., Joss, M. J., Robinson, A., Mabbutt, B., Gillings, M. R., Doolittle, W. Ford. & Stokes, H. W. (2006). Recovery and evolutionary analysis of complete integron gene cassette arrays from Vibrio. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 6 (January), 3-1 - 3-14.


Background: Integrons are genetic elements capable of the acquisition, rearrangement and expression of genes contained in gene cassettes. Gene cassettes generally consist of a promoterless gene associated with a recombination site known as a 59-base element (59-be). Multiple insertion events can lead to the assembly of large integron-associated cassette arrays. The most striking examples are found in Vibrio, where such cassette arrays are widespread and can range from 30 kb to 150 kb. Besides those found in completely sequenced genomes, no such array has yet been recovered in its entirety. We describe an approach to systematically isolate, sequence and annotate large integron gene cassette arrays from bacterial strains. Results: The complete Vibrio sp. DAT722 integron cassette array was determined through the streamlined approach described here. To place it in an evolutionary context, we compare the DAT722 array to known vibrio arrays and performed phylogenetic analyses for all of its components (integrase, 59- be sites, gene cassette encoded genes). It differs extensively in terms of genomic context as well as gene cassette content and organization. The phylogenetic tree of the 59-be sites collectively found in the Vibrio gene cassette pool suggests frequent transfer of cassettes within and between Vibrio species, with slower transfer rates between more phylogenetically distant relatives. We also identify multiple cases where nonintegron chromosomal genes seem to have been assembled into gene cassettes and others where cassettes have been inserted into chromosomal locations outside integrons. Conclusion: Our systematic approach greatly facilitates the isolation and annotation of large integrons gene cassette arrays. Comparative analysis of the Vibrio sp. DAT722 integron obtained through this approach to those found in other vibrios confirms the role of this genetic element in promoting lateral gene transfer and suggests a high rate of gene gain/loss relative to most other loci on vibrio chromosomes. We identify a relationship between the phylogenetic distance separating two species and the rate at which they exchange gene cassettes, interactions between the non-mobile portion of bacterial genomes and the vibrio gene cassette pool as well as intragenomic translocation events of integrons in vibrios.



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