Send to

Choose Destination
Curr Opin Microbiol. 2017 Aug;38:22-29. doi: 10.1016/j.mib.2017.04.001. Epub 2017 Apr 27.

In and out-contribution of natural transformation to the shuffling of large genomic regions.

Author information

Laboratory of Molecular Microbiology, Global Health Institute, School of Life Sciences, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland. Electronic address:


Naturally competent bacteria can pull free DNA from their surroundings. This incoming DNA can serve various purposes, ranging from acting as a source of nutrients or DNA stretches for repair to the acquisition of novel genetic information. The latter process defines the natural competence for transformation as a mode of horizontal gene transfer (HGT) and led to its discovery almost a century ago. However, although it is widely accepted that natural competence can contribute to the spread of genetic material among prokaryotes, the question remains whether this mode of HGT can foster the transfer of larger DNA regions or only transfers shorter fragments, given that extracellular DNA is often heavily fragmented. Here, I outline examples of competence-mediated movement of large genomic segments. Moreover, I discuss a recent proposition that transformation is used to cure bacteria of selfish mobile genetic elements. Such a transformation-mediated genome maintenance mechanism could indeed be an important and underappreciated function of natural competence.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center