● Lateral gene transfer (LGT) occurs in a broad range of prokaryotes and eukaryotes, occasionally promoting adaptation. LGT of functional nuclear genes has been reported among some plants, but systematic studies are needed to assess the frequency and facilitators of LGT.
● We scanned the genomes of a diverse set of 17 grass species that span more than 50 Ma of divergence and include major crops to identify grass to grass protein coding LGT.
● We identified LGTs in 13 species, with significant variation in the amount each received. Rhizomatous species acquired statistically more genes, probably because this growth habit boosts opportunities for transfer into the germline. In addition, the amount of LGT increases with phylogenetic relatedness, which might reflect genomic compatibility among close relatives facilitating successful transfers. However, genetic exchanges among highly divergent species indicates that transfers can occur across almost the entire family.
● Overall, we showed that LGT is a widespread phenomenon in grasses that has moved functional genes across the grass family into domesticated and wild species alike. Successful LGTs appear to increase with both opportunity and compatibility.Samuel G. S. Hibdige, Pauline Raimondeau, Pascal-Antoine Christin and Luke T. DunningAnimal and Plant Sciences, University of Shefﬁeld, Western Bank Shefﬁeld S10 2TN, UK
So what becomes of detailed claims about the path that explicitly Darwinian (ancestor to descendant) evolution took if horizontal gene transfer is widespread? How do we know that Darwinian evolution was even involved?
The paper is open access.
See also: Giant corpse flower has lost most of its genes, grabbed some from its plant hosts. At Quanta: “Davis’ team estimated that at least 1.2% of the plant’s genes came from other species, particularly its hosts, past and present. That might not sound impressive, but this kind of horizontal gene transfer is considered exceptionally rare outside of bacteria. So even a single percent of genes arising this way raises eyebrows.” Researchers are still trying to figure out why the parasitic plant has such a huge genome. Commendably, they are NOT claiming it’s all just junk.
Horizontal gene transfer: Sorry, Darwin, it’s not your evolution any more