It is suggested that genomes found in any form of cellular life contain potentially size-variable repetitive DNA moieties. In eukaryotes, large proportions of the multi-chromosomal genome consist of various classes of repetitive DNA. Also in archaeal genomes, repetitive DNA is encountered and, as is the case for the eukaryotes as well, little or no function is at present attributable to most of it. For prokaryotes, elegant experiments have highlighted so-called slipped strand nucleotide mispairing (SSM) as a basic and causal mechanism, giving rise to repeat unit number variation at a distinct locus. Illegitimate base pairing in regions of repetitive DNA during replication, in association with defective DNA repair and enhanced nuclease susceptibility of replication intermediates, in the end gives rise to deletion or addition of repeat units. Prokaryotic short sequence repeats (SSRs) harbour arrays of short repeat units, between one and approximately 20 nucleotides in length. SSRs are involved in various mechanisms of microbial gene expression regulation. Promoter strength can be affected by altering the spacing between important structural domains as can the integrity of open reading frames. In the present communication the literature on microbial SSRs harbouring repeat units that are five nucleotides in length will be briefly reviewed. Examples of these SSRs with discrete functionality are encountered in bacterial species such as Haemophilus influenzae, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and Pasteurella haemolytica. In addition, several of the currently known bacterial and archaeal whole genome sequences were scanned for the presence of novel examples of potential five-nucleotide SSRs (and others) in order to gather additional knowledge on the propensity and putative functions of this type of potential genetic switch.

Haemophilus influenzae, Molecular switch, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Pasteurella haemolytica, Short sequence repeat, Slipped strand mispairing, Whole genome sequence,
Research in Microbiology
Department of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases

van Belkum, A.F, van Leeuwen, W.B, Scherer, S, & Verbrugh, H.A. (1999). Occurrence and structure-function relationship of pentameric short sequence repeats in microbial genomes. Research in Microbiology (Vol. 150, pp. 617–626). doi:10.1016/S0923-2508(99)00129-1