PerspectiveEvolution

With a Little Help from Prokaryotes

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Science  08 Mar 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6124, pp. 1154-1155
DOI: 10.1126/science.1234938

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Summary

Organisms need to innovate to tackle new challenges. This can be achieved by tinkering with their genetic repertoires. Gene or genome duplications followed by evolution into new functions have thus shaped eukaryotic genomes (1). Alternatively, organisms may acquire other organisms' innovations by horizontal gene transfer. Bacteria and Archaea (Prokaryotes) adapt predominantly by transfer (2), and closely related strains of the same species can differ by a large fraction of their genes repertoires (3). On page 1207 of this issue, Schönknecht et al. (4) present evidence of massive gene transfers from Prokaryotes to a eukaryote, the unicellular red alga Galdieria sulphuraria.