Rarely Jumping Genes

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Science  14 Aug 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5942, pp. 794
DOI: 10.1126/science.325_794a

Horizontal gene transfer (HGT), the movement of genes between distinct lineages, has been proposed as a means by which foreign genetic material can be incorporated and utilized within a species and its descendants. It is believed that most such transfer has occurred either via the engulfment of one organism by another, which generally is restricted to single-celled species, or during the course of host-parasite interactions. Richards et al. have identified suspected HGT events by comparing the genomes of six plant species with those of 150 prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Through stringent phylogenetic analyses, they found five fungus-to-plant and four plant-to-fungus transfers, including three cases in which transfer had been presaged by a jump from a prokaryote to a eukaryote. On the basis of these results, they suggest that HGT between eukaryotes does occur and can provide new genes that are useful enough to hang on to.

Plant Cell 21, 10.1105/tpc.109.065805 (2009).

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