I just couldn’t resist including these two quotes from a new posting on PhysOrg. It has to do with lateral gene transfer, and the study as to what kind of information is swapped between microbes.
The bottom line, apparently, is that “lone” genes—rather than metabolic apparatus or interacting genes—are what is swapped most commonly between bacteria.
But as the scientists describe their work, it’s really a wonder to listen to the imagery they invoke.
Sit back and enjoy!
Genes whose protein products rely on many partners to do their job are less likely to work properly in a new host, Gophna said. Transferring a highly connected gene into a new host is like importing a fax machine into a remote village, he explained. “While the machine itself is potentially useful, it needs a number of additional connections to work – electricity, a phone line, a supply of paper, possibly a technician. If one of these is missing the machine becomes useless and ends up as junk.
I’m sorry. Doesn’t this sound like irreducible complexity?
Bacteria are more likely to adopt ‘loner’ genes than genes that are well-connected, the authors added. “If you think of the cell like a machine, it’s much more difficult to exchange the hub of a machine than some of its accessories,” Pupko said.
Indeed, I do think of a cell as a machine.
If it looks like a rose, and smells like a rose, and feels like a rose . . .