Simple sequence repeats (SSRs) or microsatellites are the repetitive nucleotide sequences of motifs of length 1–6 bp. They are scattered throughout the genomes of all the known organisms ranging from viruses to eukaryotes. Microsatellites undergo mutations in the form of insertions and deletions (INDELS) of their repeat units with some bias towards insertions that lead to microsatellite tract expansion. Although prokaryotic genomes derive some plasticity due to microsatellite mutations they have in-built mechanisms to arrest undue expansions of microsatellites and one such mechanism is constituted by post-replicative DNA repair enzymes MutL, MutH and MutS. The mycobacterial genomes lack these enzymes and as a null hypothesis one could expect these genomes to harbour many long tracts. It is therefore interesting to analyse the mycobacterial genomes for distribution and abundance of microsatellites tracts and to look for potentially polymorphic microsatellites. Available mycobacterial genomes, Mycobacterium avium, M. leprae, M. bovis and the two strains of M. tuberculosis (CDC1551 and H37Rv) were analysed for frequencies and abundance of SSRs. Our analysis revealed that the SSRs are distributed throughout the mycobacterial genomes at an average of 220–230 SSR tracts per kb. All the mycobacterial genomes contain few regions that are conspicuously denser or poorer in microsatellites compared to their expected genome averages. The genomes distinctly show scarcity of long microsatellites despite the absence of a post-replicative DNA repair system. Such severe scarcity of long microsatellites could arise as a result of strong selection pressures operating against long and unstable sequences although influence of GC-content and role of point mutations in arresting microsatellite expansions can not be ruled out. Nonetheless, the long tracts occasionally found in coding as well as non-coding regions may account for limited genome plasticity in these genomes.
Volume 44 | Issue 5
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