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Horizontal gene transfer: Parasite plants steal genes from hosts

Dodder plant/© simona, Adobe Stock

From ScienceDaily:

Some parasitic plants steal genetic material from their host plants and use the stolen genes to more effectively siphon off the host’s nutrients. A new study led by researchers at Penn State and Virginia Tech reveals that the parasitic plant dodder has stolen a large amount of genetic material from its hosts, including over 100 functional genes. These stolen genes contribute to dodder’s ability to latch onto and steal nutrients from the host and even to send genetic weapons back into the host. The new study appears July 22, 2019, in the journal Nature Plants.

“Horizontal gene transfer, the movement of genetic material from one organism into the genome of another species, is very common in microbes and is a major way that bacteria can acquire antibiotic resistance,” said Claude dePamphilis, professor of biology at Penn State and senior author of the study. “We don’t see many examples of horizontal gene transfer in complex organisms like plants, and when we do see it, the transferred genetic material isn’t generally used. In this study, we present the most dramatic case known of functional horizontal gene transfer ever found in complex organisms.”

Parasitic plants like dodder cannot live on their own by generating energy through photosynthesis. Instead, they use structures called haustoria to tap into a host plant’s supply of water and nutrients. Dodder wraps itself around its host plant, growing into its vascular tissue, and often feeds on multiple plants at one time. It can parasitize many different species, wild plants as well as those of agricultural and horticultural importance.

“Parasitic plants live very intimately in connection with their host, extracting nutrients,” said dePamphilis. “But they also get genetic material in the process, and sometimes they incorporate that material into their genome. Previous studies focused on single transferred genes. Here, we used genome-scale datasets about gene expression to determine whether the large amount of genetic material coming over through horizontal gene transfer is actually being used.” …

The researchers are currently investigating how exactly genetic material is being transferred from host to parasite. They would also like to explore whether this transfer is a one-way street, or if the host can obtain genetic material from its parasite.

“We’d love to know how extensive horizontal gene transfer really is,” said dePamphilis. “We looked at just one of species of dodder, which is just one of over 4000 species of parasitic plants. Does horizontal gene transfer of functional genes happen to the same extent in other species? Is it possible in non-parasitic plants? In other complex organisms? This may be the tip of the iceberg.” Paper. (paywall) – Zhenzhen Yang, Eric K. Wafula, Gunjune Kim, Saima Shahid, Joel R. McNeal, Paula E. Ralph, Prakash R. Timilsena, Wen-bin Yu, Elizabeth A. Kelly, Huiting Zhang, Thomas Nate Person, Naomi S. Altman, Michael J. Axtell, James H. Westwood, Claude W. dePamphilis. Convergent horizontal gene transfer and cross-talk of mobile nucleic acids in parasitic plants. Nature Plants, 2019; DOI: 10.1038/s41477-019-0458-0 More.

Indeed, HGT may well be “the tip of the iceberg,” as the researcher says. Consider: Darwinism is about ancestor-descendant relationships. Take that away and the whole elaborate catechism of altruism, kin selection, costly fitness, etc. is poof! And horizontal gene transfer does indeed take that away.

See also: Horizontal gene transfer: Sorry, Darwin, it’s not your evolution any more

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Bob O'H:
Isn’t the whole kin selection framework precisely the one we would need to explain this: selection on different levels of ancestor-descendant relationships?
Both kin and sexual selection work to keep the norm. They are both anti-universal common descent. ET
Bob O'H states,
Isn’t the whole kin selection framework precisely the one we would need to explain this: selection on different levels of ancestor-descendant relationships?
Should you not first scientifically establish that selection can do anything before you claim that it can do everything?
No Controversies About Darwinism? Try This One – May 30, 2017 Excerpt: “Natural selection functions in the realm of philosophy, not science.” For support, he quotes none other than staunch Darwinian Richard Lewontin of Harvard, who at least had the intellectual rigor to critically examine the meaning of natural selection: “For what good is a theory that is guaranteed by its internal logical structure to agree with all conceivable observations, irrespective of the real structure of the world? If scientists are going to use logically unbeatable theories about the world, they might as well give up natural science and take up religion. Yet is that not exactly the situation with Darwinism?” (Lewontin, “Testing the Theory of Natural Selection,” Nature 236, no. 543 (1972): 181-182, cited by Bethell, p. 65).,,, E.O. Wilson claims that kin selection is unscientific. His opponents will counter that group selection is unscientific. Perhaps it’s all unscientific. Its definitions are fuzzy, its units are unspecified, and it predicts opposite outcomes with equal ease. It cannot be falsified. Students, and thoughtful adults, deserve to know such things. https://www.evolutionnews.org/2017/05/no-controversies-about-darwinism-try-this-one/ (August 2018) Natural Selection is not an actual 'cause' of anything but is defined as an after the fact ‘effect’. Yet in the literature, Darwinists continue to talk of natural selection as if it had some sort of ‘before the fact’ causal power. As Adam Sedgwick originally pointed out to Charles Darwin himself about his theory of natural selection, “what is it but a secondary consequence of supposed, or known, primary facts. Development is a better word because more close to the cause of the fact.”,,, and yet,,, “You write of “natural selection” as if it were done consciously by the selecting agent.” https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/intelligent-design/is-darwinism-completely-worthless-to-science/#comment-663106 Genome-wide analysis of a long-term evolution experiment with Drosophila – 2010 Excerpt of concluding paragraph: “Despite decades of sustained selection in relatively small, sexually reproducing laboratory populations, selection did not lead to the fixation of newly arising unconditionally advantageous alleles. This is notable because in wild populations we expect the strength of natural selection to be less intense and the environment unlikely to remain constant for ~600 generations. Consequently, the probability of fixation in wild populations should be even lower than its likelihood in these experiments.” http://www.homepages.ed.ac.uk/aspiliop//2010_2011/Burke%20et%20al%202010.pdf “The Third Way” – James Shapiro, Denis Noble, and etc.. etc..,,, excerpt: “some Neo-Darwinists have elevated Natural Selection into a unique creative force that solves all the difficult evolutionary problems without a real empirical basis.” http://www.thethirdwayofevolution.com/ “many genomic features could not have emerged without a near-complete disengagement of the power of natural selection” Michael Lynch – The Origins of Genome Architecture, intro “the uncritical acceptance of natural selection as an explanatory force for all aspects of biodiversity (without any direct evidence) is not much different than invoking an intelligent designer” Michael Lynch – The Origins of Genome Architecture, p 368 Neutral Model, genetic drift and the Third Way—a synopsis of the self-inflicted demise of the evolutionary paradigm by Jeffrey P. Tomkins and Jerry Bergman - 2017 "Because of grievous deficiencies in the standard neo-Darwinian Model of evolution, which is largely selection driven, scientists proposed an alternative postulate called the ‘Neutral Model’ in the late 1960s. The Neutral Model is also mutation driven, but selection is deemed to be an insignificant force of change. Instead, random genetic drift is alleged to be the main driver. Since its inception, the Neutral Model has come to be incorporated in many theoretical evolutionary scenarios at some level. However, due to numerous discoveries in genomics and genome function, the Neutral Model has also become deficient, prompting a new move in science called the ‘Extended Evolutionary Synthesis’ or ‘The Third Way’, which takes a position of blissful ignorance and offers nothing tangible to extend or support evolutionary theory. While Third Way proponents recognize the deficiency of all popular evolutionary models, they maintain that more research is needed to elucidate unknown evolutionary mechanisms and processes despite the fact that the progress of scientific discovery is revealing nothing but unimaginable complexity." https://creation.com/evolutionary-mechanisms
Darwinism is about ancestor-descendant relationships. Take that away and the whole elaborate catechism of altruism, kin selection, costly fitness, etc. is poof!
Really, why? Isn't the whole kin selection framework precisely the one we would need to explain this: selection on different levels of ancestor-descendant relationships? Bob O'H

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