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Summary

The bacterial chromosome encodes information at multiple levels. Beyond direct protein coding, genomes encode regulatory information required to orchestrate the proper timing and levels of gene expression and protein synthesis, and contain binding sites and regulatory sequences to co-ordinate the activities of proteins involved in chromosome repair and maintenance. In addition, it is becoming increasingly clear that yet another level of information is encoded by the bacterial chromosome – the three-dimensional packaging of the chromosomal DNA molecule itself and its positioning relative to the cell. This vast structural blueprint of specific positional information is manifested in various ways, directing chromosome compaction, accessibility, attachment to the cell envelope, supercoiling, and general architecture and arrangement of the chromosome relative to the cell body. Recent studies have begun to identify and characterize novel systems that utilize the three-dimensional spatial information encoded by chromosomal architecture to co-ordinate and direct fundamental cellular processes within the cytoplasm, providing large-scale order within the complex clutter of the cytoplasmic compartment.