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Long stretches of short tandem repeats are present in the largest replicons of the Archaea Haloferax mediterranei and Haloferax volcanii and could be involved in replicon partitioning.

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We report the presence of long stretches of tandem repeats in the genome of the halophilic Archaea Haloferax mediterranei and Haloferax volcanii. A 30 bp sequence with dyad symmetry (including 5 bp inverted repeats) was repeated in tandem, interspersed with 33-39 bp unique sequences. This structure extends for long stretches--1.4 kb at one location in H. mediterranei chromosome and about 3 kb in the H. volcanii chromosome. The tandem repeats (designated TREPs) show a similar distribution in both organisms, appearing once or twice in the H. volcanii and H. mediterranei chromosomes, and once in the largest, probably essential megaplasmid of each organism but not in the smaller replicons. Sequencing of the structures in both H. volcanii replicons revealed an extremely high sequence conservation in both replicons within the species, as well as in the different organisms. Homologous sequences have also been found in other more distantly related halophilic members of the Archaea. Transformation of H. volcanii with a recombinant plasmid containing a 1.1 kb fragment of the TREPs produced significant alterations in the host cells, particularly in terms of cell viability. The introduction of extra copies of TREPs within the vector significantly alters the distribution of the genome among the daughter cells, as observed by DAPI staining. Although the precise biological role cannot be completely ascertained, all the data conform with the tandem repeats being involved in replicon partitioning in halobacteria.

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