Globetrotting conjugal hitchhiker

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Science  18 Oct 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6463, pp. 321-322
DOI: 10.1126/science.366.6463.321-f

Plasmids transfer large gene clusters between distant bacterial relatives. They are notorious for spreading antibiotic resistance genes among pathogens. Petersen et al. wondered whether plasmid transfer among environmental bacteria is happening on a similar scale. Choosing Roseobacter, known for its genetic plasticity and importance in carbon and sulfur cycling in the oceans, the authors found a RepL-type plasmid called pLA6_12. This plasmid has 100% sequence identity in several genera from multiple locations. Consequently, its occurrence is indicative of recent global horizontal gene transfer events. pLA6_12 contains gene cassettes for detoxification of anthropogenic pollutants and, like antibiotic resistance plasmids, seems to be selected for by human activities.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 116, 20568 (2019).

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