Promoter propagation in prokaryotes

M. Matus-Garcia, H. Nijveen, M.W.J. van Passel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Transcriptional activation or 'rewiring' of silent genes is an important, yet poorly understood, phenomenon in prokaryotic genomes. Anecdotal evidence coming from experimental evolution studies in bacterial systems has shown the promptness of adaptation upon appropriate selective pressure. In many cases, a partial or complete promoter is mobilized to silent genes from elsewhere in the genome. We term hereafter such recruited regulatory sequences as Putative Mobile Promoters (PMPs) and we hypothesize they have a large impact on rapid adaptation of novel or cryptic functions. Querying all publicly available prokaryotic genomes (1362) uncovered >4000 families of highly conserved PMPs (50 to 100 long with =80% nt identity) in 1043 genomes from 424 different genera. The genomes with the largest number of PMP families are Anabaena variabilis (28 families), Geobacter uraniireducens (27 families) and Cyanothece PCC7424 (25 families). Family size varied from 2 to 93 homologous promoters (in Desulfurivibrio alkaliphilus). Some PMPs are present in particular species, but some are conserved across distant genera. The identified PMPs represent a conservative dataset of very recent or conserved events of mobilization of non-coding DNA and thus they constitute evidence of an extensive reservoir of recyclable regulatory sequences for rapid transcriptional rewiring
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10032-10040
JournalNucleic acids research
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • horizontal gene-transfer
  • escherichia-coli
  • adaptive evolution
  • lactococcus-lactis
  • sequences
  • genomes
  • networks
  • identification
  • mutations
  • families


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