Integrons in Xanthomonas: a source of species genome diversity.

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Journal Article
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2005, 102 (12), pp. 4419 - 4424
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Integrons are best known for assembling antibiotic resistance genes in clinical bacteria. They capture genes by using integrase-mediated site-specific recombination of mobile gene cassettes. Integrons also occur in the chromosomes of many bacteria, notably beta- and gamma-Proteobacteria. In a survey of Xanthomonas, integrons were found in all 32 strains representing 12 pathovars of two species. Their chromosomal location was downstream from the acid dehydratase gene, ilvD, suggesting that an integron was present at this site in the ancestral xanthomonad. There was considerable sequence and structural diversity among the extant integrons. The majority of integrase genes were predicted to be inactivated by frameshifts, stop codons, or large deletions, suggesting that the associated gene cassettes can no longer be mobilized. In support, groups of strains with the same deletions or stop codons/frameshifts in their integrase gene usually contained identical arrays of gene cassettes. In general, strains within individual pathovars had identical cassettes, and these exhibited no similarity to cassettes detected in other pathovars. The variety and characteristics of contemporary gene cassettes suggests that the ancestral integron had access to a diverse pool of these mobile elements, and that their genes originated outside the Xanthomonas genome. Subsequent inactivation of the integrase gene in particular lineages has largely fixed the gene cassette arrays in particular pathovars during their differentiation and specialization into ecological niches. The acquisition of diverse gene cassettes by different lineages within Xanthomonas has contributed to the species-genome diversity of the genus. The role of gene cassettes in survival on plant surfaces is currently unknown.
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