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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2009 Aug 12;364(1527):2229-39. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2009.0033.

Horizontal gene transfer from extinct and extant lineages: biological innovation and the coral of life.

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  • 1Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269-31258, USA.

Abstract

Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is often considered to be a source of error in phylogenetic reconstruction, causing individual gene trees within an organismal lineage to be incongruent, obfuscating the 'true' evolutionary history. However, when identified as such, HGTs between divergent organismal lineages are useful, phylogenetically informative characters that can provide insight into evolutionary history. Here, we discuss several distinct HGT events involving all three domains of life, illustrating the selective advantages that can be conveyed via HGT, and the utility of HGT in aiding phylogenetic reconstruction and in dating the relative sequence of speciation events. We also discuss the role of HGT from extinct lineages, and its impact on our understanding of the evolution of life on Earth. Organismal phylogeny needs to incorporate reticulations; a simple tree does not provide an accurate depiction of the processes that have shaped life's history.

PMID:
19571243
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2873001
Free PMC Article

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