In addition to the main chromosome, approximately one in ten bacterial genomes have a 'second chromosome' or 'megaplasmid'. Here, we propose that these represent a single class of elements that have a distinct and consistent set of properties, and suggest the term 'chromid' to distinguish them from both chromosomes and plasmids. Chromids carry some core genes, and their nucleotide composition and codon usage are very similar to those of the chromosomes they are associated with. By contrast, they have plasmid replication and partitioning systems and the majority of their genes confer accessory functions. Chromids seem particularly rich in genus-specific genes and appear to be 'reinvented' at the origin of a new genus.
Copyright (c) 2010. Published by Elsevier Ltd.