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Amazing horizontal gene transfer lets desert bacterium acquire photosynthesis

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Gemmatimonas phototrophica is said to be unique among photosynthetic bacteria:

Sometime during the bacterium’s history, it stole a whole suite of photosynthesis-related genes from a more ancient proteobacterium – a completely different phylum of bacteria.

This shows off the power of bacteria’s horizontal gene-transfer skills (notorious for easily spreading antibiotic resistance), allowing an entirely different type of organism to obtain sunlight-eating powers.

This new-to-science, highly stable, sunlight-capturing complex of molecules has a central reaction center, an inner sunlight-capturing ring seen before in other bacteria, and a new type of outer ring…

“This structural and functional study has exciting implications because it shows that G. phototrophica has independently evolved its own compact, robust, and highly effective architecture for harvesting and trapping solar energy,” says University of Sheffield structural biologist Pu Qian. Tessa Koumoundouros, “A Mysterious Desert Bacterium Has Evolved Its Own, Unique Ability to Photosynthesize” at Science News Alert (February 20, 2022)

The paper is open access.

You may also wish to read: Horizontal gene transfer: Sorry, Darwin, it’s not your evolution any more


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