Revisiting operons: an analysis of the landscape of transcriptional units in E. coli

Xizeng Mao; Qin Ma; Bingqiang Liu; Xin Chen; Hanyuan Zhang; Ying Xu
November 2015
BMC Bioinformatics;11/4/2015, Vol. 16, p1
Academic Journal
Background: Bacterial operons are considerably more complex than what were thought. At least their components are dynamically rather than statically defined as previously assumed. Here we present a computational study of the landscape of the transcriptional units (TUs) of E. coli K12, revealed by the available genomic and transcriptomic data, providing new understanding about the complexity of TUs as a whole encoded in the genome of E. coli K12. Results and conclusion: Our main findings include that (i) different TUs may overlap with each other by sharing common genes, giving rise to clusters of overlapped TUs (TUCs) along the genomic sequence; (ii) the intergenic regions in front of the first gene of each TU tend to have more conserved sequence motifs than those of the other genes inside the TU, suggesting that TUs each have their own promoters; (iii) the terminators associated with the 3' ends of TUCs tend to be Rho-independent terminators, substantially more often than terminators of TUs that end inside a TUC; and (iv) the functional relatedness of adjacent gene pairs in individual TUs is higher than those in TUCs, suggesting that individual TUs are more basic functional units than TUCs.


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