NewsMICROBES, IMMUNITY, AND DISEASE

Borrowing--Genes--From Microbial Neighbors

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Science  21 May 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5418, pp. 1306
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5418.1306

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Summary

Recent work suggests that gene transfers may be even more common than thought, particularly in the deep evolutionary past, allowing microbes to exchange a wide variety of different genes--and complicating biologists' efforts to trace microbial evolution (see main text). Indeed, as new work presented at the Microbial Genomes III meeting shows, these widespread gene transfers have not been confined to the evolutionary past but may be going on today, even in supposedly ancient organisms, called Archaea, whose genomes have been thought to be long fixed.