Following the Footsteps of Chlamydial Gene Regulation

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Regulation of gene expression ensures an organism responds to stimuli and undergoes proper development. Although the regulatory networks in bacteria have been investigated in model microorganisms, nearly nothing is known about the evolution and plasticity of these networks in obligate, intracellular bacteria. The phylumChlamydiaecontains a vast array of host-associated microbes, including several human pathogens. TheChlamydiaeare unique among obligate, intracellular bacteria as they undergo a complex biphasic developmental cycle in which large swaths of genes are temporally regulated. Coupled with the low number of transcription factors, these organisms offer a model to study the evolution of regulatory networks in intracellular organisms. We provide the first comprehensive analysis exploring the diversity and evolution of regulatory networks across the phylum. We utilized a comparative genomics approach to construct predicted coregulatory networks, which unveiled genus- and family-specific regulatory motifs and architectures, most notably those of virulence-associated genes. Surprisingly, our analysis suggests that few regulatory components are conserved across the phylum, and those that are conserved are involved in the exploitation of the intracellular niche. Our study thus lends insight into a component of chlamydial evolution that has otherwise remained largely unexplored.

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