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Mol Biol Evol. 2003 Oct;20(10):1598-602. Epub 2003 May 30.

Horizontal gene transfer accelerates genome innovation and evolution.

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  • 1Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, USA.


Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) spreads genetic diversity by moving genes across species boundaries. By rapidly introducing newly evolved genes into existing genomes, HGT circumvents the slow step of ab initio gene creation and accelerates genome innovation. However, HGT can only affect organisms that readily exchange genes (exchange communities). In order to define exchange communities and understand the internal and external environmental factors that regulate HGT, we analyzed approximately 20,000 genes contained in eight free-living prokaryotic genomes. These analyses indicate that HGT occurs among organisms that share similar factors. The most significant are genome size, genome G/C composition, carbon utilization, and oxygen tolerance.

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