Identification of DNA motifs implicated in maintenance of bacterial core genomes by predictive modeling

David Halpern, Hélène Chiapello, Sophie Schbath, Stéphane Robin, Christelle Hennequet-Antier, Alexandra Gruss, Meriem El Karoui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bacterial biodiversity at the species level, in terms of gene acquisition or loss, is so immense that it raises the question of how essential chromosomal regions are spared from uncontrolled rearrangements. Protection of the genome likely depends on specific DNA motifs that impose limits on the regions that undergo recombination. Although most such motifs remain unidentified, they are theoretically predictable based on their genomic distribution properties. We examined the distribution of the "crossover hotspot instigator," or Chi, in Escherichia coli, and found that its exceptional distribution is restricted to the core genome common to three strains. We then formulated a set of criteria that were incorporated in a statistical model to search core genomes for motifs potentially involved in genome stability in other species. Our strategy led us to identify and biologically validate two distinct heptamers that possess Chi properties, one in Staphylococcus aureus, and the other in several streptococci. This strategy paves the way for wide-scale discovery of other important functional noncoding motifs that distinguish core genomes from the strain-variable regions.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere153
Pages (from-to)1614-21
Number of pages8
JournalPLoS Genetics
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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