Acquiring the Essentials

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Science  23 Nov 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6110, pp. 1010
DOI: 10.1126/science.338.6110.1010-b

Bdelloid rotifers are microinvertebrates that have garnered much interest because of their long history of asexual reproduction (tens of millions of years), high rates of horizontal gene transfer, and ability to withstand extreme desiccation. Boschetti et al. have examined the transcriptome of hydrated and dehydrated Adineta ricciae bdelloid rotifers and identified genes that have probably undergone horizontal gene transfer. They found that approximately 9.7% of transcripts appeared to be from genes that have undergone horizontal gene transfer, of which half appeared to be of prokaryotic origin. The remaining half were of eukaryotic origin. These foreign transcripts are probably functional. In fact, 39% of enzymatic activity in bdelloid rotifers may be the result of acquired genes. The presence of genes of prokaryotic origin in their genome allowed bdelloid rotifers to degrade toxic compounds. Thus, the authors conclude that extreme horizontal gene transfer may have increased bdelloid stress tolerance and competitiveness, and might have also facilitated their long-term persistence in the absence of sex.

PLoS Genet. 8, e1003035 (2012).

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