Base Composition Skews, Replication Orientation, and Gene Orientation in 12 Prokaryote Genomes
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Variation in GC content, GC skew and AT skew along genomic regions was examined at third codon positions in completely sequenced prokaryotes. Eight out of nine eubacteria studied show GC and AT skews that change sign at the origin of replication. The leading strand in DNA replication is G-T rich at codon position 3 in six eubacteria, but C-T rich in two Mycoplasma species. In M. genitalium the AT and GC skews are symmetrical around the origin and terminus of replication, whereas its GC content variation has been shown to have a centre of symmetry elsewhere in the genome. Borrelia burgdorferi and Treponema pallidum show extraordinary extents of base composition skew correlated with direction of DNA replication. Base composition skews measured at third codon positions probably reflect mutational biases, whereas those measured over all bases in a sequence (or at codon positions 1 and 2) can be strongly affected by protein considerations due to the tendency in some bacteria for genes to be transcribed in the same direction that they are replicated. Consequently in some species the direction of skew for total genomic DNA is opposite to that for codon position 3.
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