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Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2009 Dec;19(6):613-9. doi: 10.1016/j.gde.2009.10.001. Epub 2009 Nov 10.

Functional and ecological impacts of horizontal gene transfer in eukaryotes.

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Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Botany Department, University of British Columbia, 3529-6270 University Boulevard, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada.


Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is known to have contributed to the content of eukaryotic genomes, but the direct effects of HGT on eukaryotic evolution are more obscure because many of the best supported cases involve a new gene replacing a functionally similar homologue. Here, several cases of HGT conferring a plausible adaptive advantage are reviewed to examine emerging trends in such transfer events. In particular, HGT seems to play an important role in adaptation to parasitism and pathogenesis, as well as to other specific environmental conditions such as anaerobiosis or nitrogen and iron limitation in marine environments. Most, but not all, of the functionally significant HGT to eukaryotes comes from bacteria, in part due to chance, but probably also because bacteria have greater metabolic diversity to offer.

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