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Regulatory consequences of gene translocation in bacteria

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Gene translocations play an important role in the plasticity and evolution of bacterial genomes. In this study, we investigated the impact on gene regulation of three genome organizational features that can be altered by translocations: (i) chromosome position; (ii) gene orientation; and (iii) the distance between a target gene and its transcription factor gene (‘target-TF distance’). Specifically, we quantified the effect of these features on constitutive expression, transcription factor binding and/or gene expression noise using a synthetic network in Escherichia coli composed of a transcription factor (LacI repressor) and its target gene (yfp). Here we show that gene regulation is generally robust to changes in chromosome position, gene orientation and target-TF distance. The only demonstrable effect was that chromosome position alters constitutive expression, due to changes in gene copy number and local sequence effects, and that this determines maximum and minimum expression levels. The results were incorporated into a mathematical model which was used to quantitatively predict the responses of a simple gene network to gene translocations; the predictions were confirmed experimentally. In summary, gene translocation can modulate constitutive gene expression levels due to changes in chromosome position but it has minimal impact on other facets of gene regulation.

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