A Unified Multitude: Experimental Studies of Bacterial Chromosome Organization

  • Date:
  • Location: room B42, Uppsala Biomedical Centre (BMC), Husargatan 3, Uppsala
  • Doctoral student: Garmendia, Eva
  • About the dissertation
  • Organiser: Institutionen för medicinsk biokemi och mikrobiologi
  • Contact person: Garmendia, Eva
  • Disputation

Bacteria are many, old and varied; different bacterial species have been evolving for millions of years and show many disparate life-styles and types of metabolism. Nevertheless, some of the characteristics regarding how bacteria organize their chromosomes are relatively conserved, suggesting that they might be both ancient and important, and that selective pressures inhibit their modification.

This thesis aims to study some of these characteristics experimentally, assessing how changes affect bacterial growth, and how, after changing conserved features, bacteria might evolve.

First, we experimentally tested what are the constraints on the horizontal transfer of a gene highly important for bacterial growth. Second, we investigated the significance of the location and orientation of a highly expressed and essential operon; and we experimentally evolved strains with suboptimal locations and orientations to assess how bacteria could adapt to these changes. Thirdly, we sought to understand the accessibility of different regions of the bacterial chromosome to engage in homologous recombination. And lastly, we constructed bacterial strains with chromosomal inversions to assess what effect the inversions had on growth rate, and how bacteria carrying costly inversions could evolve to reduce these costs.

The results provide evidence for different selective forces acting to conserve these chromosome organizational traits. Accordingly, we found that evolutionary distance, functional conservation, suboptimal expression and impaired network connectivity of a gene can affect the successful transfer of genes between bacterial species. We determined that relative location of an essential and highly expressed operon is critical for supporting fast growth rate, and that its location seems to be more important than its orientation. We also found that both the location, and relative orientation of separated duplicate sequences can affect recombination rates between these sequences in different regions of the chromosome. Finally, the data suggest that the importance of having the two arms of a circular bacterial chromosome approximately equal in size is a strong selective force acting against certain type of chromosomal inversions.