Gene transfers are particularly common in the antibiotic-resistance genes of Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria.
When mammals breed, the genome of the offspring is a combination of the parents’ genomes. Bacteria, by contrast, reproduce through cell division. In theory, this means that the genomes of the offspring are copies of the parent genome. However, the process is not quite as straightforward as this due to horizontal gene transfer through which bacteria can transfer fragments of their genome to each other. As a result of this phenomenon, the genome of an individual bacterium can be a combination of genes from several different donors. Some of the genome fragments may even originate from completely different species.
In a recent study combining machine learning and bioinformatics, a new computational method was developed for modelling gene transfers between different lineages of a bacterial population or even between entirely different bacterial species.
The study was able to show that gene transfer occurs both within species and between several different species. The large number of transfers identified during the study was a surprise to the researchers. Paper. (public access) – Rafal Mostowy, Nicholas J. Croucher, Cheryl P. Andam, Jukka Corander, William P. Hanage, Pekka Marttinen. Efficient inference of recent and ancestral recombination within bacterial populations. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 2017; DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msx066 More.
We remember when it was all put down to Darwinism (natural selection acting on random mutation) in lineal mother-daughter descent. One wonders how many would-be science majors are still learning that dogma in school.
See also: Horizontal gene transfer: Virus carries DNA of black widow spider toxin
Can parasitic plants use hosts’ genes against them?
Horizontal gene transfer: Researchers believe any two major groups of organisms can share genetic codes
Horizontal gene transfer: Sorry, Darwin, it’s not your evolution any more
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