Sugar Lego: Gene composition of bacterial carbohydrate metabolism genomic loci
Bacterial carbohydrate metabolism is extremely diverse, since carbohydrates serve as a major energy source and are involved in a variety of cellular processes. Bacterial genes belonging to same metabolic pathway are often co-localized in the chromosome, but it is not a strict rule. Gene co-localization in linked to co-evolution and co-regulation. This study focuses on a large-scale analysis of bacterial genomic loci related to the carbohydrate metabolism.
We demonstrate that only 53% of 148,000 studied genes from over six hundred bacterial genomes are co-localized in bacterial genomes with other carbohydrate metabolism genes, which points to a significant role of singleton genes. Co-localized genes form cassettes, ranging in size from two to fifteen genes. Two major factors influencing the cassette-forming tendency are gene function and bacterial phylogeny. We have obtained a comprehensive picture of co-localization preferences of genes for nineteen major carbohydrate metabolism functional classes, over two hundred gene orthologous clusters, and thirty bacterial classes, and characterized the cassette variety in size and content among different species, highlighting a significant role of short cassettes. The preference towards co-localization of carbohydrate metabolism genes varies between 40 and 76% for bacterial taxa. Analysis of frequently co-localized genes yielded forty-five significant pairwise links between genes belonging to different functional classes. The number of such links per class range from zero to eight, demonstrating varying preferences of respective genes towards a specific chromosomal neighborhood. Genes from eleven functional classes tend to co-localize with genes from the same class, indicating an important role of clustering of genes with similar functions. At that, in most cases such co-localization does not originate from local duplication events.
Overall, we describe a complex web formed by evolutionary relationships of bacterial carbohydrate metabolism genes, manifested as co-localization patterns.