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PLoS Biol. 2013 Jul;11(7):e1001602. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001602. Epub 2013 Jul 9.

Distributive conjugal transfer in mycobacteria generates progeny with meiotic-like genome-wide mosaicism, allowing mapping of a mating identity locus.

Author information

1
Division of Genetics, Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health, Albany, New York, United States of America. gray@wadsworth.org

Abstract

Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) in bacteria generates variation and drives evolution, and conjugation is considered a major contributor as it can mediate transfer of large segments of DNA between strains and species. We previously described a novel form of chromosomal conjugation in mycobacteria that does not conform to classic oriT-based conjugation models, and whose potential evolutionary significance has not been evaluated. Here, we determined the genome sequences of 22 F1-generation transconjugants, providing the first genome-wide view of conjugal HGT in bacteria at the nucleotide level. Remarkably, mycobacterial recipients acquired multiple, large, unlinked segments of donor DNA, far exceeding expectations for any bacterial HGT event. Consequently, conjugal DNA transfer created extensive genome-wide mosaicism within individual transconjugants, which generated large-scale sibling diversity approaching that seen in meiotic recombination. We exploited these attributes to perform genome-wide mapping and introgression analyses to map a locus that determines conjugal mating identity in M. smegmatis. Distributive conjugal transfer offers a plausible mechanism for the predicted HGT events that created the genome mosaicism observed among extant Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium canettii species. Mycobacterial distributive conjugal transfer permits innovative genetic approaches to map phenotypic traits and confers the evolutionary benefits of sexual reproduction in an asexual organism.

PMID:
23874149
PMCID:
PMC3706393
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pbio.1001602
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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