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Curr Opin Microbiol. 2011 Oct;14(5):615-23. doi: 10.1016/j.mib.2011.07.027. Epub 2011 Aug 17.

Trends and barriers to lateral gene transfer in prokaryotes.

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  • 1Institute of Molecular Evolution, Heinrich-Heine University of Düsseldorf, Universitätstr. 1 40225, Düsseldorf, Germany.


Gene acquisition by lateral gene transfer (LGT) is an important mechanism for natural variation among prokaryotes. Laboratory experiments show that protein-coding genes can be laterally transferred extremely fast among microbial cells, inherited to most of their descendants, and adapt to a new regulatory regime within a short time. Recent advance in the phylogenetic analysis of microbial genomes using networks approach reveals a substantial impact of LGT during microbial genome evolution. Phylogenomic networks of LGT among prokaryotes reconstructed from completely sequenced genomes uncover barriers to LGT in multiple levels. Here we discuss the kinds of barriers to gene acquisition in nature including physical barriers for gene transfer between cells, genomic barriers for the integration of acquired DNA, and functional barriers for the acquisition of new genes.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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