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Mol Microbiol. 2010 Mar;75(5):1078-89. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2009.07030.x. Epub 2010 Jan 18.

Compensatory gene amplification restores fitness after inter-species gene replacements.

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Department of Medical Biochemistry and Microbiology, Uppsala University, SE-75123 Uppsala, Sweden.


Genes introduced by gene replacements and other types of horizontal gene transfer (HGT) represent a significant presence in many archaeal and eubacterial genomes. Most alien genes are likely to be neutral or deleterious upon arrival and their long-term persistence may require a mechanism that improves their selective contribution. To examine the fate of inter-species gene replacements, we exchanged three native S. typhimurium genes encoding ribosomal proteins with orthologues from various other microbes. The results show that replacement of each of these three genes reduces fitness to such an extent that it would provide an effective barrier against inter-species gene replacements in eubacterial populations. However, these fitness defects could be partially ameliorated by gene amplification that augmented the dosage of the heterologous proteins. This suggests that suboptimal expression is a common fitness constraint for inter-species gene replacements, with fitness costs conferred by either a lower expression level of the alien protein compared with the native protein or a requirement for an increased amount of the alien protein to maintain proper function. Our findings can explain the observation that duplicated genes are over-represented among horizontally transferred genes, and suggest a potential coupling between compensatory gene amplification after HGT and the evolution of new genes.

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