Background: Replication of bacterial chromosomes increases copy numbers of genes located near origins of replication relative to genes located near termini. Such differential gene dosage depends on replication rate, doubling time and chromosome size. Although little explored, differential gene dosage may influence both gene expression and location. For vibrios, a diverse family of fast growing gammaproteobacteria, gene dosage may be particularly important as they harbor two chromosomes of different size.
Results: Here we examined replication dynamics and gene dosage effects for the separate chromosomes of three Vibrio species. We also investigated locations for specific gene types within the genome. The results showed consistently larger gene dosage differences for the large chromosome which also initiated replication long before the small. Accordingly, large chromosome gene expression levels were generally higher and showed an influence from gene dosage. This was reflected by a higher abundance of growth essential and growth contributing genes of which many locate near the origin of replication. In contrast, small chromosome gene expression levels were low and appeared independent of gene dosage. Also, species specific genes are highly abundant and an over-representation of genes involved in transcription could explain its gene dosage independent expression.
Conclusion: Here we establish a link between replication dynamics and differential gene dosage on one hand and gene expression levels and the location of specific gene types on the other. For vibrios, this relationship appears connected to a polarisation of genetic content between its chromosomes, which may both contribute to and be enhanced by an improved adaptive capacity.