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Bioessays. 1999 Feb;21(2):99-104.

Mosaic bacterial chromosomes: a challenge en route to a tree of genomes.

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Institut für Genetik, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Federal Republic of Germany.


In a recent analysis J.G. Lawrence and H. Ochman [Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 1998;95:9413-9417 (Reference 1)] surmised that about 10% of the current E. coli genome consists of genes that were acquired in over 200 events of lateral gene transfer, which occurred subsequent to the divergence of E. coli and Salmonella some 100 million years ago. Overall, the data suggest that no less than 18% of E. coli's genes might be relatively recent foreign acquisitions, and that the average rate of acquisition may be close to about 16 kb per million years. These quantitative estimates of comparatively recent genome flux have profound impact on evolutionary genome comparisons. They tend to suggest that a search should be on to identify principles that might ultimately govern gene distribution patterns across prokaryotic genomes.

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