Horizontal gene transfer
Most thinking in genetics has focused on vertical transfer, but there is a growing awareness that horizontal gene transfer is a significant phenomenon. Amongst single-celled organisms it may be the dominant form of genetic transfer. Artificial horizontal gene transfer is a form of genetic engineering.
There are several mechanisms for horizontal gene transfer:
- Transformation, the genetic alteration of a cell resulting from the introduction, uptake and expression of foreign genetic material (DNA or RNA). This process is relatively common in bacteria, but less so in eukaryotes. Transformation is often used in laboratories to insert novel genes into bacteria for experiments or for industrial or medical applications. See also molecular biology and biotechnology.
- Transduction, the process in which bacterial DNA is moved from one bacterium to another by a bacterial virus (a bacteriophage, or 'phage').
- Bacterial conjugation, a process in which a bacterial cell transfers genetic material to another cell by cell-to-cell contact.
- A gene transfer agent or 'GTA' is a virus-like element which contains random pieces of the host chromosome. They are found in most members of the alphaproteobacteria order Rhodobacterales. They are encoded by the host genome. GTAs transfer DNA so frequently that they may have an important role in evolution.
A 2010 report found that genes for antibiotic resistance could be transferred by engineering GTAs in the laboratory.
Horizontal gene transfer was first described in Japan in a 1959 publication that demonstrated the transfer of antibiotic resistance between different species of bacteria. In the mid-1980s, Syvanen predicted that lateral gene transfer existed, had biological significance, and was involved in shaping evolutionary history from the beginning of life on Earth.
As Jain, Rivera and Lake (1999) put it: "Increasingly, studies of genes and genomes are indicating that considerable horizontal transfer has occurred between prokaryotes". The phenomenon appears to have had some significance for unicellular eukaryotes as well. As Bapteste et al. (2005) observe, "additional evidence suggests that gene transfer might also be an important evolutionary mechanism in protist evolution".
There is some evidence that even higher plants and animals have been affected and this has raised concerns for safety. However, Richardson and Palmer (2007) state: "Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) has played a major role in bacterial evolution and is fairly common in certain unicellular eukaryotes. However, the prevalence and importance of HGT in the evolution of multicellular eukaryotes remain unclear".
- McDaniel L.D. et al. 2010. High frequency of horizontal gene transfer in the oceans. Science 330: 50. doi:10.1126/science.1192243
- Maxmen A. 2010. Virus-like particles speed bacterial evolution. Nature. doi:10.1038/news.2010.507
- Ochiai K, Yamanaka T, Kimura K, Sawada, O (1959). "Inheritance of drug resistance (and its transfer) between Shigella strains and Between Shigella and E. coli strains" (in Japanese). Hihon Iji Shimpor 1861: 34.
- Akiba T, Koyama K, Ishiki Y, Kimura S, Fukushima T (April 1960). "On the mechanism of the development of multiple-drug-resistant clones of Shigella". Jpn. J. Microbiol. 4: 219–27. PMID 13681921.
- Syvanen M (January 1985). "Cross-species gene transfer; implications for a new theory of evolution" (PDF). J. Theor. Biol. 112 (2): 333–43. doi:10.1016/S0022-5193(85)80291-5. PMID 2984477. http://www.dcn.davis.ca.us/vme/hgt/JTheoBiolvol112pp333-343yr1985.PDF.
- Jain R, Rivera MC, Lake JA (March 1999). "Horizontal gene transfer among genomes: the complexity hypothesis". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 96 (7): 3801–6. doi:10.1073/pnas.96.7.3801. PMC 22375. PMID 10097118. http://www.pnas.org/cgi/pmidlookup?view=long&pmid=10097118.
- Rivera MC, Lake JA (September 2004). "The ring of life provides evidence for a genome fusion origin of eukaryotes". Nature 431 (7005): 152–5. doi:10.1038/nature02848. PMID 15356622. http://www.sdsc.edu/~shindyal/ejc121304.pdf.
- Bapteste E, Susko E, Leigh J, MacLeod D, Charlebois RL, Doolittle WF (2005). "Do orthologous gene phylogenies really support tree-thinking?". BMC Evol. Biol. 5 (1): 33. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-5-33. PMC 1156881. PMID 15913459.
- Mae-Wan Ho 1999. Cauliflower Mosaic Viral Promoter - a recipe for disaster? Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease, 11:194–197. Reprint. Accessed 2008-06-09.
- Richardson, Aaron O. and Jeffrey D. Palmer (January 2007). "Horizontal gene transfer in plants". Journal of Experimental Botany 58 (1): 1–9 . doi:10.1093/jxb/erl148. PMID 17030541.