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Trends Cell Biol. 1999 Dec;9(12):M5-8.

Lateral genomics.

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Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Dept of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.


More than 20 complete prokaryotic genome sequences are now publicly available, each by itself an unparalleled resource for understanding organismal biology. Collectively, these data are even more powerful: they could force a dramatic reworking of the framework in which we understand biological evolution. It is possible that a single universal phylogenetic tree is not the best way to depict relationships between all living and extinct species. Instead a web- or net-like pattern, reflecting the importance of horizontal or lateral gene transfer between lineages of organisms, might provide a more appropriate visual metaphor. Here, I ask whether this way of thinking is really justified, and explore its implications.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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