Comparative analysis of mobilizable genomic islands

J Bacteriol. 2013 Feb;195(3):606-14. doi: 10.1128/JB.01985-12. Epub 2012 Nov 30.


Mobilizable genomic islands (MGIs) are small genomic islands of less than 35 kbp containing an integrase gene and a sequence that resembles the origin of transfer (oriT) of an integrating conjugative element (ICE). MGIs have been shown to site-specifically integrate and excise from the chromosome of bacterial hosts and hijack the conjugative machinery of a coresident ICE to disseminate. To date, MGIs have been described in three strains belonging to three different Vibrio species. In this study, we report the discovery of 11 additional putative MGIs found in various species of Vibrio, Alteromonas, Pseudoalteromonas, and Methylophaga. We designed an MGI capture system that allowed us to relocate chromosomal MGIs onto a low-copy-number plasmid and facilitate their isolation and sequencing. Comparative genomics and phylogenetic analyses of these mobile genetic elements revealed their mosaic structure and their evolution through recombination and acquisition of exogenous DNA. MGIs were found to belong to a larger family of genomic islands (GIs) sharing a similar integrase gene and often integrated into the same integration site yet exhibiting a different mechanism of regulation of excision and mobilization. We found that MGIs can excise only when an ICE of the SXT/R391 family is coresident in the same cell, while GIs still excise regardless.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Chromosomes, Bacterial / genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Gammaproteobacteria / classification
  • Gammaproteobacteria / genetics*
  • Gammaproteobacteria / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial / physiology
  • Genomic Islands / genetics*
  • Genomics
  • Multigene Family
  • Phylogeny
  • Plasmids
  • Recombination, Genetic


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA, Bacterial