by Jeremy W. Schroeder, T. Sabari Sankar, Jue D. Wang, Lyle A. Simmons
Replication-transcription conflicts promote mutagenesis and give rise to evolutionary signatures, with fundamental importance to genome stability ranging from bacteria to metastatic cancer cells. This review focuses on the interplay between replication-transcription conflicts and the evolution of gene directionality. In most bacteria, the majority of genes are encoded on the leading strand of replication such that their transcription is co-directional with the direction of DNA replication fork movement. This gene strand bias arises primarily due to negative selection against deleterious consequences of head-on replication-transcription conflict. However, many genes remain head-on. Can head-on orientation provide some benefit? We combine insights from both mechanistic and evolutionary studies, review published work, and analyze gene expression data to evaluate an emerging model that head-on genes are temporal targets for adaptive mutagenesis during stress. We highlight the alternative explanation that genes in the head-on orientation may simply be the result of genomic inversions and relaxed selection acting on nonessential genes. We seek to clarify how the mechanisms of replication-transcription conflict, in concert with other mutagenic mechanisms, balanced by natural selection, have shaped bacterial genome evolution.