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J Exp Bot. 2007;58(1):1-9. Epub 2006 Oct 9.

Horizontal gene transfer in plants.

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Department of Biology, Indiana University, 1001 East Third Street, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.


Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) has played a major role in bacterial evolution and is fairly common in certain unicellular eukaryotes. However, the prevalence and importance of HGT in the evolution of multicellular eukaryotes remain unclear. Recent studies indicate that plant mitochondrial genomes are unusually active in HGT relative to all other organellar and nuclear genomes of multicellular eukaryotes. Although little about the mechanisms of plant HGT is known, several studies have implicated parasitic plants as both donors and recipients of mitochondrial genes. Most cases uncovered thus far have involved a single transferred gene per species; however, recent work has uncovered a case of massive HGT in Amborella trichopoda involving acquisition of at least a few dozen and probably hundreds of foreign mitochondrial genes. These foreign genes came from multiple donors, primarily eudicots and mosses. This review will examine the implications of such massive transfer, the potential mechanisms and consequences of plant-to-plant mitochondrial HGT in general, as well as the limited evidence for HGT in plant chloroplast and nuclear genomes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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