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Nat Rev Microbiol. 2017 Aug;15(8):492-501. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro.2017.41. Epub 2017 May 15.

Mechanisms of gene flow in archaea.

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Molecular Biology of Archaea, Institute of Biology II - Microbiology, Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg, Schaenzlestrasse 1, 79104 Freiburg, Germany.
Department of Microbiology, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 601 South Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, Illinois 61801, USA.
Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 1206 South Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, Illinois 61801, USA.
Laboratory of Genetics, Genome Center of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Energy Institute, J. F. Crow Institute for the Study of Evolution, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 425-G Henry Mall, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.


Archaea are diverse, ecologically important, single-celled microorganisms. They have unique functions and features, such as methanogenesis and the composition of their cell envelope, although many characteristics are shared with the other domains of life, either through ancestry or through promiscuous horizontal gene transfer. The exchange of genetic material is a major driving force for genome evolution across the tree of life and has a role in archaeal speciation, adaptation and maintenance of diversity. In this Review, we discuss our current knowledge of archaeal mechanisms of DNA transfer and highlight the role of gene transfer in archaeal evolution.

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