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Mol Biosyst. 2012 Mar;8(3):790-5. doi: 10.1039/c2mb05330f. Epub 2012 Jan 4.

Horizontal gene transfers as metagenomic gene duplications.

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  • 1Universit√† degli Studi di Torino, Dipartimento di Fisica Teorica, Torino, Italy.


While it is well accepted that horizontal gene transfer plays an important role in the evolution and the diversification of prokaryotic genomes, many questions remain open regarding its functional mechanisms of action and its interplay with the extant genome. This study addresses the relationship between proteome innovation by horizontal gene transfer and genome content in Proteobacteria. We characterize the transferred genes, focusing on the protein domain compositions and their relationships with the existing protein domain superfamilies in the genome. In agreement with previous observations, we find that the protein domain architectures of horizontally transferred genes are significantly shorter than the genomic average. Furthermore, protein domains that are more common in the total pool of genomes appear to have a proportionally higher chance to be transferred. This suggests that transfer events behave as if they were drawn randomly from a cross-genomic community gene pool, much like gene duplicates are drawn from a genomic gene pool. Finally, horizontally transferred genes carry domains of exogenous families less frequently for larger genomes, although they might do it more than expected by chance.

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