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Trends Genet. 2011 Apr;27(4):157-63. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2011.01.005. Epub 2011 Feb 18.

Horizontal gene transfer between bacteria and animals.

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Institute for Genome Science, Department of Microbiology & Immunology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.


Horizontal gene transfer is increasingly described between bacteria and animals. Such transfers that are vertically inherited have the potential to influence the evolution of animals. One classic example is the transfer of DNA from mitochondria and chloroplasts to the nucleus after the acquisition of these organelles by eukaryotes. Even today, many of the described instances of bacteria-to-animal transfer occur as part of intimate relationships such as those of endosymbionts and their invertebrate hosts, particularly insects and nematodes, while numerous transfers are also found in asexual animals. Both of these observations are consistent with modern evolutionary theory, in particular the serial endosymbiotic theory and Muller's ratchet. Although it is tempting to suggest that these particular lifestyles promote horizontal gene transfer, it is difficult to ascertain given the nonrandom sampling of animal genome sequencing projects and the lack of a systematic analysis of animal genomes for such transfers.

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