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Horizontal gene transfer: We have foreign genes, say researchers

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coding region of eukaryote gene/National Human Genome Research Institute

From Phys.org:

Many animals, including humans, acquired essential ‘foreign’ genes from microorganisms co-habiting their environment in ancient times, according to research published in the open access journal Genome Biology. The study challenges conventional views that animal evolution relies solely on genes passed down through ancestral lines, suggesting that, at least in some lineages, the process is still ongoing.

The transfer of genes between organisms living in the same environment is known as horizontal gene transfer (HGT). It is well known in single-celled organisms and thought to be an important process that explains how quickly bacteria evolve, for example, resistance to antibiotics.

Lead author Alastair Crisp from the University of Cambridge, UK, said: “This is the first study to show how widely horizontal gene transfer (HGT) occurs in animals, including humans, giving rise to tens or hundreds of active ‘foreign’ genes. Surprisingly, far from being a rare occurrence, it appears that HGT has contributed to the evolution of many, perhaps all, animals and that the process is ongoing, meaning that we may need to re-evaluate how we think about evolution.”More. Also here.

Well perhaps we had better start by banning discussion of horizontal gene transfer in the schools and textbooks—their purpose, after all, is to promote tax-funded Darwinism, not the study of evolution as such.

Here’s the reference:

Alastair Crisp, Chiara Boschetti, Malcolm Perry, Alan Tunnacliffe and Gos Micklem, Expression of multiple horizontally acquired genes is a hallmark of both vertebrate and invertebrate genomes, Genome Biology 2015. DOI: 10.1186/s13059-015-0607-3

See also: The tree of life shows a clock-like trend? in new species’ emergence and diversity, researchers say

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7 Replies to “Horizontal gene transfer: We have foreign genes, say researchers

  1. 1
    JoeCoder says:

    In the literature are there any estimates of the following based on observation and not phylogeny?:

    1. How often horizontal gene transfer occurs in animals.
    2. How often such transferred genes are co-opted to perform a useful function.

    This is critical in determining whether HGT or design are a good explanation for these out-of-place genes.

  2. 2
    ppolish says:

    How much “junk” DNA is due to HGT?

  3. 3
    bFast says:

    This is interesting, “acquired essential ‘foreign’ genes”

    The idea that the genes we acquired are “essential” is quite astounding. Ppolish asks an important question, “how much is ‘Junk'”. If HGT is only for “essential” genes, but not for “junk”, this seems to be a problem to me.

  4. 4
    Mung says:

    Foreign is ok. Alien is not ok.

    As long as we don’t have alien genes all is well.

  5. 5
    sparc says:

    How is this news and how should this contradict evolution theory? E.g., we know for ages that Drosophila takes up Wolbachia DNA. HGT would provide the perfect occasion to demonstrate that ID based design detection tools work. Just take one of the cases described in the paper (it’s open access) and calculate how CSI and FSCI/O changed due to the insertion of the foreign gene.

  6. 6

    I was a bit skeptical about the researchers’s findings, and I think Prof. Jonathan Eisen’s remarks need to be considered as well:

    http://phylogenomics.blogspot......e+of+Life)

  7. 7
    tjguy says:

    Sparc @5

    How is this news and how should this contradict evolution theory?

    E.g., we know for ages that Drosophila takes up Wolbachia DNA. HGT would provide the perfect occasion to demonstrate that ID based design detection tools work. Just take one of the cases described in the paper (it’s open access) and calculate how CSI and FSCI/O changed due to the insertion of the foreign gene.

    Sparc, HGT is a just so story made up by the evolutionists in order to explain away the problem of orphan genes.

    Another Horizontal Gene Transfer Fairy Tale

    by Jeffrey P. Tomkins, Ph.D. *

    As the genomes of many new creatures rapidly fill the public DNA sequence databases, the problems for the grand evolutionary story are becoming overwhelming. One issue is the fact that different creatures have unique sets of genes specific to their kind with no apparent evolutionary history. To explain this glaring problem, evolutionists have resorted to the myth of pervasive horizontal gene transfer.

    Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is the process whereby genes are transferred from one type of creature to another without sexual reproduction. Earlier in my career, I participated in a study (published in the journal Science), in which we found that the pathogenic bacterium Wolbachia had transferred large portions of its DNA into the genomes of both worms and insects.1 The Wolbachia bacterium is able to do this extraordinary feat by targeting the cells of reproductive organs so that the transferred DNA is literally inherited in the host. However, we also observed that very few of these transferred genes were found to be expressed (turned on). They were clearly just genomic baggage. This is actually one of the few clearly documented cases of horizontal gene transfer showing that a specific type of parasite-host relationship is the mechanism for the foreign DNA importation to occur and be heritable.

    However, in a newly published study, the researchers claim that “HGT has contributed to the evolution of many, perhaps all, animals and that the process is on-going in most lineages.”2 The amazing thing about this statement is that it is a big hypothetical fairy tale. In this study, the researchers failed to prove any portion of this extravagant statement, nor did they show any specific mechanism for how HGT could have happened. In fact, the whole study was seriously flawed on a variety of key fronts.

    First, the researchers found unique genes in a variety of fruit flies, worms, primates, and humans that had no clear evolutionary ancestry. In other words, each of these genes is specific to a certain type of creature. Scientists have previously termed these “orphan genes”—a unique type of gene that provides a clear anti-evolutionary enigma I have discussed in previous reports.3,4 Some claim these novel orphan sequences evolved suddenly out of non-coding DNA while others, such as the authors of this new report, claim they were derived from HGT.

    The major problem with claiming that these alleged HGT genes are imported or “foreign” (i.e., transferred into the genome from some other creature), is that many of them encode important enzymatic proteins and are key parts of the interconnected gene networks and complex biochemical pathways that are essential to the very life of the organism.

    The researchers stated, “The majority of these genes are concerned with metabolism.” Clearly, the genes are not foreign at all, but designed to function as key parts of essential biologically complex systems.

    Second, the approach to supposedly identifying many of the foreign genes in animals as microbial in origin was not even based on actual complete gene sequence, but depended upon isolated regions of similarity in the proteins they encode. In mammals, genes are quite complex, and on average only about 10% of the entire gene sequence actually codes for protein, the rest contains a large diversity of regulatory sequences that determine how the gene is to function and its various types of products. In contrast, microbial genes are typically much less complex and lack these intricate and intervening regulatory regions found in animal genes. If the researchers had actually compared the genomic DNA, very little similarity would have been discovered—in other words, they didn’t do their homework correctly. In fact, they admitted their claim that the gene was foreign—or where it originated from—was purely hypothetical, when they stated that “absolute certainty in the assignment of most HGT is unachievable.”

    Third, no mechanism of HGT for any of the hundreds of alleged “foreign genes” they found was either discovered or even suggested.

    This is due to the fact that the only cases where such gene transfer occurs in nature typically involves a clear host-parasite relationship. Not only that, but the cells of the germline (those that produce sperm and egg) must be specifically targeted or the introgressed genes (those that were incorporated from one species into the genome of another) will not be inherited.

    Unfortunately, evolutionary biologists constantly resort to fictional stories cloaked in technical terminology to escape the straightforward conclusion that the genomes of different creatures were purposefully crafted. Because of their unwavering commitment to evolution, all ideas about these cleverly designed and network-integrated gene sequences being engineered by a Creator are not considered—at least not openly.


    http://www.icr.org/article/8673

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