Avoidance of palindromic recognition sites of Type II restriction-modification (R-M) systems was shown for many R-M systems in dozens of prokaryotic genomes. However the phenomenon has not been investigated systematically for all presently available genomes and annotated R-M systems. We have studied all known recognition sites in thousands of prokaryotic genomes and found factors that influence their avoidance.Only Type II R-M systems consisting of independently acting endonuclease and methyltransferase (called 'orthodox' here) cause avoidance of their sites, both palindromic and asymmetric, in corresponding prokaryotic genomes; the avoidance takes place for?~?50 % of 1774 studied cases. It is known that prokaryotes can acquire and lose R-M systems. Thus it is possible to talk about the lifespan of an R-M system in a genome. We have shown that the recognition site avoidance correlates with the lifespan of R-M systems. The sites of orthodox R-M systems that are encoded in host genomes for a long time are avoided more often (up to 100 % in certain cohorts) than the sites of recently acquired ones. We also found cases of site avoidance in absence of the corresponding R-M systems in the genome. An analysis of closely related bacteria shows that such avoidance can be a trace of lost R-M systems. Sites of Type I, II?/G, IIM, III, and IV R-M systems are not avoided in vast majority of cases.The avoidance of orthodox Type II R-M system recognition sites in prokaryotic genomes is a widespread phenomenon. Presence of an R-M system without an underrepresentation of its site may indicate that the R-M system was acquired recently. At the same time, a significant underrepresentation of a site may be a sign of presence of the corresponding R-M system in this organism or in its ancestors for a long time. The drastic difference between site avoidance for orthodox Type II R-M systems and R-M systems of other types can be explained by a higher rate of specificity changes or a less self-toxicity of the latter.
Journal: BMC genomics