Bacteria can acquire new genes by incorporating environmental DNA into their genomes, yet genome sizes stay relatively constant. In nature, gene acquisition is a rare event so it is difficult to observe. However, the Caulobacter crescentus CB2A genome contains 114 insertions of genetic material from the closely-related NA1000 strain, providing a unique opportunity to analyze the horizontal transfer of genetic material. Analyses of these insertions led to a new model that involves preferential recombination at non-homologous regions that are flanked by regions of homology and does not involve any mutational processes. The net result is the replacement of segments of the recipient genome instead of the simple addition of genetic material during horizontal gene transfer. Analyses of the genomes of closely related strains of other bacterial and archaea genera, suggested that horizontal gene transfer occurs preferentially in non-homologous regions in these organisms as well. Thus, it appears to be a general phenomenon that prokaryotic horizontal gene transfer occurs preferentially at sites where the incoming DNA contains a non-homologous region that is flanked by regions of homology. Therefore, gene replacement is a common phenomenon during horizontal gene transfer.
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Published in PLOS ONE, Volume 15, Issue 1, 2020.
© 2020 Bert Ely. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Ely, B. (2020). Recombination and Gene Loss Occur Simultaneously During Bacterial Horizontal Gene Transfer. PLOS ONE, 15(1), e0227987. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0227987