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Chapter 11 : Horizontal Gene Transfer and the Real World

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Abstract:

Microbial ecologists and geneticists were forced to look at the natural environment to determine experimentally whether horizontal gene exchange could take place in nature. Horizontal gene transfer can be confirmed in many environments. The data to date suggest that various mechanisms of horizontal gene transfer with various outcomes and consequences can take place in all natural environments, whether aquatic, terrestrial, or biological, often in biofilms. Transformation has been shown to occur in freshwater and marine environments and in various soils. The presence of free DNA in many environments suggests that the potential for transformation is widespread. It is likely that this chapter discovers that not only is horizontal gene transfer more widespread than we now can document but that the themes and variations in its mechanisms are much more robust than we can now imagine. In any case it is now clear that horizontal gene transfer has been and continues to be a strong and important force in the evolution of bacterial genomes. The concepts of the importance of transduction and transformation have greatly changed during the past few years. The discovery that competence is often controlled by quorum-sensing mechanisms has greatly advanced our understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms of transformation and excited many microbiologists to search for new species with new mechanisms and signals for the initiation of competence and, hence, genetic transformation. Such insights have excited interest in understanding how bacteria and other microorganisms exchange genetic information in nature.

Citation: Miller R, Day M. 2004. Horizontal Gene Transfer and the Real World, p 173-177. In Miller R, Day M (ed), Microbial Evolution. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817749.ch11

Key Concept Ranking

Horizontal Gene Transfer
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Bacterial Genetic Elements
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References

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Tables

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TABLE 1

Environments where horizontal gene transfer has been positively observed

Citation: Miller R, Day M. 2004. Horizontal Gene Transfer and the Real World, p 173-177. In Miller R, Day M (ed), Microbial Evolution. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817749.ch11
Generic image for table
TABLE 2

A summary of the horizontal gene transfer interactions occurring in a biofilm community

Citation: Miller R, Day M. 2004. Horizontal Gene Transfer and the Real World, p 173-177. In Miller R, Day M (ed), Microbial Evolution. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817749.ch11

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