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A giant family of short palindromic sequences in Stenotrophomonas maltophilia

Francesco Rocco, Eliana De Gregorio, Pier Paolo Di Nocera
FEMS Microbiology Letters 2010, 308 (2): 185-92
The genome of Stenotrophomonas maltophilia is peppered with palindromic elements called SMAG (Stenotrophomonas maltophilia GTAG) because they carry at one terminus the tetranucleotide GTAG. The repeats are species-specific variants of the superfamily of repetitive extragenic palindromes (REPs), DNA sequences spread in the intergenic space in many prokaryotic genomes. The genomic organization and the functional features of SMAG elements are described herein. A total of 1650 SMAG elements were identified in the genome of the S. maltophilia K279a strain. The elements are 22-25 bp in size, and can be sorted into five distinct major subfamilies because they have different stem and loop sequences. One fifth of the SMAG family is comprised of single units, 2/5 of elements located at a close distance from each other and 2/5 of elements grouped in tandem arrays of variable lengths. Altogether, SMAGs and intermingled DNA occupy 13% of the intergenic space, and make up 1.4% of the chromosome. Hundreds of genes are immediately flanked by SMAGs, and the level of expression of many may be influenced by the folding of the repeats in the mRNA. Expression analyses suggested that SMAGs function as RNA control sequences, either stabilizing upstream transcripts or favoring their degradation.

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