Bacterial genome sizes, which range from 500 to 10,000 kbp, are within the current scope of operation of large-scale nucleotide sequence determination facilities. To date, 8 complete bacterial genomes have been sequenced, and at least 40 more will be completed in the near future. Such projects give wonderfully detailed information concerning the structure of the organism's genes and the overall organization of the sequenced genomes. It will be very important to put this incredible wealth of detail into a larger biological picture: How does this information apply to the genomes of related genera, related species, or even other individuals from the same species? Recent advances in pulsed-field gel electrophoretic technology have facilitated the construction of complete and accurate physical maps of bacterial chromosomes, and the many maps constructed in the past decade have revealed unexpected and substantial differences in genome size and organization even among closely related bacteria. This review focuses on this recently appreciated plasticity in structure of bacterial genomes, and diversity in genome size, replicon geometry, and chromosome number are discussed at inter- and intraspecies levels.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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