The genus Mycobacterium is composed of species with widely differing growth rates ranging from approximately three hours in Mycobacterium smegmatis to two weeks in Mycobacterium leprae. As DNA replication is coupled to cell duplication, it may be regulated by common mechanisms. The chromosomal regions surrounding the origins of DNA replication from M. smegmatis, M. tuberculosis, and M. leprae have been sequenced, and show very few differences. The gene order, rnpA-rpmH-dnaA-dnaN-recF-orf-gyrB-gyrA, is the same as in other Gram-positive organisms. Although the general organization in M. smegmatis is very similar to that of Streptomyces spp., a closely related genus, M. tuberculosis and M. leprae differ as they lack an open reading frame, between dnaN and recF, which is similar to the gnd gene of Escherichia coli. Within the three mycobacterial species, there is extensive sequence conservation in the intergenic regions flanking dnaA, but more variation from the consensus DnaA box sequence was seen than in other bacteria. By means of subcloning experiments, the putative chromosomal origin of replication of M. smegmatis, containing the dnaA-dnaN region, was shown to promote autonomous replication in M. smegmatis, unlike the corresponding regions from M. tuberculosis or M. leprae.
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