Saturday, January 5, 2008

Chromosomes in prokaryotes

The prokaryotes - bacteria and archaea - typically have a single circular chromosome, but many variations do exist.[1] Most bacteria have a single circular chromosome that can range in size from only 160,000 base pairs in the endosymbiotic bacteria Candidatus Carsonella ruddii,[2] to 12,200,000 base pairs in the soil-dwelling bacteria Sorangium cellulosum.[3] Spirochaetes of the genus Borrelia are a notable exception to this arrangement, with bacteria such as Borrelia burgdorferi, the cause of Lyme disease, containing a single linear chromosome.[4]

Structure in sequences

Prokaryotes chromosomes have less sequence-based structure than eukaryotes. Bacteria typically have a single point (the origin of replication) from which replication starts, while some archaea contain multiple replication origins.[5] The genes in prokaryotes are often organised in operons, and do not contain introns, unlike eukaryotes.

DNA packaging

Prokaryotes do not possess nuclei, instead their DNA is organized into a structure called the nucleoid.[6] The nucleoid is a distinct structure and occupies a defined region of the bacterial cell. This structure is however dynamic and is maintained and remodeled by the actions of a range of histone-like proteins, which associate with the bacterial chromosome.[7] In archaea, the DNA in chromosomes is even more organized, with the DNA packaged within structures similar to eukaryotic nucleosomes.[8][9]

Bacterial chromosomes tend to be tethered to the plasma membrane of the bacteria. In molecular biology application, this allows for its isolation from plasmid DNA by centrifugation of lysed bacteria and pelleting of the membranes (and the attached DNA).

Prokaryotic chromosomes and plasmids are, like eukaryotic DNA, generally supercoiled. The DNA must first be released into its relaxed state for access for transcription, regulation, and replication.

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