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Nat Rev Microbiol. 2005 Sep;3(9):700-10.

Studying plasmid horizontal transfer in situ: a critical review.

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Department of Microbiology, Institute of Biology, University of Copenhagen, Sølvgade 83H, 1307 Copenhagen K, Denmark.


This review deals with the prospective, experimental documentation of horizontal gene transfer (HGT) and its role in real-time, local adaptation. We have focused on plasmids and their function as an accessory and/or adaptive gene pool. Studies of the extent of HGT in natural environments have identified certain hot spots, and many of these involve biofilms. Biofilms are uniquely suited for HGT, as they sustain high bacterial density and metabolic activity, even in the harshest environments. Single-cell detection of donor, recipient and transconjugant bacteria in various natural environments, combined with individual-based mathematical models, has provided a new platform for HGT studies.

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