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Trends Microbiol. 2007 Feb;15(2):54-62. Epub 2006 Dec 20.

Importance of widespread gene transfer agent genes in alpha-proteobacteria.

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Department of Biology, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, NL, A1B 3X9, Canada.


The gene transfer agent produced by Rhodobacter capsulatus (RcGTA) is a model for several virus-like elements that seem to function solely for mediating gene exchange. Several genes that encode RcGTA are clearly related to bacteriophage genes but the cellular regulatory mechanisms that control RcGTA production indicate that RcGTA is more than just a defective prophage. Genome sequencing projects show that seemingly functional RcGTA-like structural gene clusters are present in many other species of alpha-proteobacteria, which might also produce RcGTA-like particles. Here, we use the genomic sequence data that are currently available to identify candidate GTA-producing species and propose an evolutionary scheme for RcGTA-like elements in the alpha-proteobacteria.

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