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Vinita Periwal, Vinod Scaria; Insights into structural variations and genome rearrangements in prokaryotic genomes, BioinformaticsVolume 31, Issue 1, 1 CircuparPages 1—9, https: Most of the SVs such as inversions, deletions and translocations have been largely studied in context of genetic diseases in eukaryotes. However, recent studies demonstrate that genome rearrangements can also have profound impact sgs prokaryotic genomes, leading to altered cell phenotype.

In contrast to single-nucleotide variations, SVs provide a much deeper insight into organization of bacterial genomes at a much better resolution. SVs can confer change in gene copy number, creation of new genes, altered gene expression and many other functional consequences.

High-throughput technologies have now made it possible to explore SVs at a much refined resolution in bacterial genomes. Through this review, we aim to highlight the importance of the less explored field of SVs in prokaryotic genomes and their impact.

We also discuss its potential applicability in the emerging fields of synthetic biology and genome engineering where targeted SVs could serve to create sophisticated and accurate genome editing.

Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online. The sequencing of a large number of prokaryotic genomes and sequence comparison of closely related species have unraveled a large repertoire of genomic variations Skovgaard et al.

A large number of studies focusing on variations in prokaryotic genomes have been majorly concentrated on single-nucleotide variations and small insertion—deletion events Sun et al. It is now being increasingly recognized that in addition to single-nucleotide variations, other types of variations that include large genomic rearrangements are not infrequent in bacterial genomes Darling et al.

Among the different types of genetic variations found in genomes, structural variants have remained the most difficult to identify and interpret.


SVs introduce variability in gene copy number, position, orientation and, in several cases, combinations of these events Freeman et al. The mechanisms of SV formation appears to be similar in prokaryotes and eukaryotes Hastings et al. But, SVs have not been widely explored and studied in prokaryotic genomes as compared with eukaryotes Kresse et al. The comprehensive assessment of SVs has been a challenge largely due to the underlying complex mechanisms that gives rise to them. Accurate and precise identification of SVs would require prediction of three features, namely, copy, content and structure Alkan et al.

Over the years, several approaches have been developed to detect and characterize SVs. Some of the classical methods include ArrayCGH array comparative genomic hybridization and single-nucleotide polymorphism SNP arrays, which have been extensively reviewed earlier Alkan et al. ArrayCGH is based on hybridizing fluorescently labeled sample with normal DNA immobilized on a glass surface and analyzing hybridization ratios. SNP arrays on the other hand use single sample per array and measure the intensities of the probe signals on the basis of single base difference.

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The major understanding on the genomic landscape of SVs was facilitated by the availability of sequencing technologies coupled with computational algorithms to map and identify SVs at a much higher resolution Skovgaard et al.

In sequencing-based approaches, paired-end reads generated with an approximate insert size are mapped onto the reference genome. The pairs svd at a distance substantially different from expected length or in altered orientation are nominated as structural variants.

Though the high-throughput technologies have significantly contributed to the understanding of the repertoire of SVs in prokaryotic genomes, the problem of SV detection has always remained challenging as none of the methods can appropriately address the complexity of repetitive regions found in genomes. It is widely believed that the SVs arise as a circulr of illegitimate recombination events homologous recombination and also by imprecise non-homologous repair mechanism during aberrant DNA replication to repair broken replication forks Hastings et al.


Apart from being the focus of evolutionary analysis Lim et al. In this review, we provide a comprehensive overview of the present understanding of SVs in general and in the context of prokaryotic genomes. We briefly describe the various types of SVs, discuss their probable molecular mechanisms vircular formation, advances in the development of tools and techniques to detect SVs and also their phenotypic consequences in context of prokaryotic genomes.

We also discuss currently used methodologies of next-generation sequencing NGS and analysis algorithms, which could provide a comprehensive and high-resolution map of SVs and how they could be extensively used for understanding biological phenomena of strain variability and evolution.

We also describe their potential applications in the emerging fields of synthetic biology ciruclar genome engineering. SVs involve long stretches of DNA that can span from a few kilobases to sometimes up to millions of base pairs in length. Chromosomal rearrangements can result in loss, amplification Andersson et al. SVs can contribute to evolution of an organism through disruption of an existing gene Jasin and Schimmel,creation of a new gene Nagarajan et al.

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In bacterial genomes, chromosomal rearrangements can change the distance of a gene from the origin of chromosome replication oriC leading to altered gene copy number and thereby affecting its expression Rebollo et al.

SVs can be broadly classified into five major classes—Deletions, Duplications, Insertions, Inversions and Translocations. Each of these discrete events is caused by a double-strand break involving at least two different locations, followed by a re-ligation of the broken ends to produce a new chromosomal arrangement or context at the ends Hastings et al. The rearrangements could widely vary in their lengths, ranging from a few thousand nucleotides to a few million nucleotides.

In some cases, the rearrangement could encompass genes, even operons or a large number of genes depending on the size of the rearranged fragment Hastings et al. The functional consequences of the SVs could therefore vary widely. The unbalanced SVs having a net gain or loss of genetic material include deletions, duplications and insertions Bentley and Parkhill, Deletions entail loss of a genomic segment, and could be intragenic, wherein they result in inactivation of a gene or the loss of one or more functional domains or an altered gene function.

In case of intergenic deletions, they could potentially affect the regulatory regions, thereby affecting the expression of neighboring genes Angov and Brusilow, Duplications are marked by the presence of two or more copies of a genomic region or a genomic segment Anderson and Roth, The duplicated regions may either lie adjacent to each other, referred to as tandem duplication Wang et al.

Duplication generally results in gain of a copy of the DNA segment carrying information Roth et al. The functional consequence of the duplication could vary depending on the information content of the duplicated genomic segment and also on the context in which it is inserted Reams and Neidle, The third class of unbalanced SVs is the insertions.

Insertion involves gain of a genomic segment through a double-stranded break DSB. HGT results in the gain of a new genomic segment in a new genomic context. In addition to novel sequence insertion, mobile-element insertion can also lead to SVs Xing et al. Mobile elements jump from one position to another within a genome often resulting in duplication.

The functional consequences of insertions are governed by the information content of the inserted fragment and the context of the genomic segment of insertion Dobinsky et al.

The balanced SVs comprise inversions. Inversions are variations that involve a rearrangement of the orientation of a genomic segment Johnson, These are copy-invariant SVs because there is no net gain or loss of genomic information.

Typically, inversions involve two breakpoints and realignment of the flipped ends. The functional consequences of inversions are potentially guided by their new genomic contexts Johnson, SVs could also involve exchange of a genomic segment from one context to another within the same chromosome or between chromosomes and are classified as translocations.

Translocations can be either balanced with the retention of full genetic functionality or unbalanced with loss or gain of functional elements Block et al. This type of SV is particularly more evident and common in multi-chromosomal bacteria, where the smaller secondary chromosomes evolve more rapidly Morrow and Cooper, Apart from the above well-defined classes of SVs, complex SVs that include combinations of two or more of these broad classes are not uncommon to observe in real-life situations Hastings et al.


A number of studies have highlighted the molecular predispositions that enable SVs to occur. This includes a wide variety of chromosomal contexts such as sequence and structural motifs, repeat elements, insertion sequence IS elements and transposon elements TE Mahillon and Chandler, ; Treangen et al.

In organisms with repetitive DNA, homologous repetitive segments within one chromosome or on different chromosomes can serve as sites for illegitimate crossing-over.

Bacterial DNA consists of an extensive array of repetitive sequences, which significantly underlie genomic instability and contain recombination hotspots Aras et al.

DNA repeats increases the chances of rearrangement through recombination, amplification and deletion of genetic material, thereby leading to genome plasticity Aras et al.

Generic repeats may arise by HGT whereby the incoming DNA fragment contains the information already present in the host genome and integrates seamlessly into the host genome using site-specific recombination Treangen et al.

There have been some important functional consequences of repetitive elements in chromosome rearrangements. The effects of deletions are highly irreversible and can be explained by the loss of functions. The effects of large inversions on the other hand result from selection for chromosome organization Rocha, The Neisseria species contains an extensive array of repetitive sequences such as tandem repeats and IS elements spread throughout its genome.

Comparative genome analysis of N eisseria meningitidis revealed that repeats are involved in three major inversion events Bentley et al. Additionally, the bacterial species N eisseria gonorrhoeaewhich contains fewer repeat elements than N. Genome rearrangements in prokaryotes have also been studied in relation to their phenotypic outcomes.

Recent studies suggest that the genomic rearrangements and SVs have a profound impact on the phenotypic outcomes in a number of organisms Cui et al. Both balanced and unbalanced forms of variation have remained difficult to interpret with respect to their functional consequence.

Though many variant calling technologies have enabled the identification and characterization of SVs Skovgaard et al.

In addition, the molecular, cellular and mechanistic insights into their formation and resultant phenotype remain largely obscure Weischenfeldt et al. Some important studies emphasizing the functional impact of SVs in prokaryotic genomes have been established Darling et al. Large-scale rearrangements in closely related strains of a species, for example, in the case of Yersinia pestishave shown to significantly contribute to the evolution, divergence and pathogenicity of the organism Liang et al.

Deletions and duplications can potentially lead to altered doses of otherwise functionally intact elements. Phenotypic effects of deletions depend on the size and the location of deleted chromosomal segments on the genome. Larger deletions are likely to involve many genes, thereby resulting in more drastically altered phenotypes Srivatsan et al. Deletions encompassing loss of essential genes or gene circcular may significantly hamper cell viability Jasin and Schimmel, On the other hand, gene duplication can have four possible outcomes Treangen et al.

The last possibility has been explored by Nagarajan et al. Gene deletions could also arise from recombination events involving repeats Gaudriault et al. It has been proposed that these deletions arise because these genes are particularly rich in closely spaced repeats Achaz et al.

In another study, experimental deletion of the mutS gene of E. Large chromosomal inversions were initially considered to be rare in bacteria Roth et al. The two closely related species Circulxr typhimurium and E. In yet another supporting evidence, Campo et al. Acquisition of mobile genetic elements through HGT in S taphylococcus aureus contributes to its genotypic and phenotypic diversity Deurenberg et al. Introduction of mobile genetic elements by site-specific recombinases svss bestow epidemiological advantage to the pathogen with traits such as survival under low pH conditions, and stressed environments, or drug-resistant strains Deurenberg et al.

Genomic rearrangements can confer drug resistance and aid in pathogen evolution such as the evolution of pandemic strains in Y.

Alteration in the gene pool of a genome is central to adaptive evolution. Reconstructing the genome synteny evolution can contribute to understanding of the dynamics of genome evolution.