Lien vers Pubmed [PMID] – 28911112
Nucleic Acids Res. 2017 Sep;45(15):8943-8956
Conjugation of single-stranded DNA drives horizontal gene transfer between bacteria and was widely studied in conjugative plasmids. The organization and function of integrative and conjugative elements (ICE), even if they are more abundant, was only studied in a few model systems. Comparative genomics of ICE has been precluded by the difficulty in finding and delimiting these elements. Here, we present the results of a method that circumvents these problems by requiring only the identification of the conjugation genes and the species’ pan-genome. We delimited 200 ICEs and this allowed the first large-scale characterization of these elements. We quantified the presence in ICEs of a wide set of functions associated with the biology of mobile genetic elements, including some that are typically associated with plasmids, such as partition and replication. Protein sequence similarity networks and phylogenetic analyses revealed that ICEs are structured in functional modules. Integrases and conjugation systems have different evolutionary histories, even if the gene repertoires of ICEs can be grouped in function of conjugation types. Our characterization of the composition and organization of ICEs paves the way for future functional and evolutionary analyses of their cargo genes, composed of a majority of unknown function genes.