Experimental data on the Escherichia coli transcriptional regulation has enabled the construction of statistical models to predict new regulatory elements within its genome. Far less is known about the transcriptional regulatory elements in other gamma-proteobacteria with sequenced genomes, so it is of great interest to conduct comparative genomic studies oriented to extracting biologically relevant information about transcriptional regulation in these less studied organisms using the knowledge from E. coli. In this work, we use the information stored in the TRACTOR_DB database to conduct a comparative study on the mechanisms of transcriptional regulation in eight gamma-proteobacteria and 38 regulons. We assess the conservation of transcription factors binding specificity across all the eight genomes and show a correlation between the conservation of a regulatory site and the structure of the transcription unit it regulates. We also find a marked conservation of site-promoter distances across the eight organisms and a correspondence of the statistical significance of co-occurrence of pairs of transcription factor binding sites in the regulatory regions, which is probably related to a conserved architecture of higher-order regulatory complexes in the organisms studied. The results obtained in this study using the information on transcriptional regulation in E. coli enable us to conclude that not only transcription factor-binding sites are conserved across related species but also several of the transcriptional regulatory mechanisms previously identified in E. coli. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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