Microbes evolve predominantly by acquiring genes from other microbes, new research suggests, challenging previous theories that gene duplication is the primary driver of protein evolution in prokaryotes.
Scanning electron micrograph of Helicobacter pylori
linkurl:Janice Carr, Wikimedia;http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HelicobacterPylori2.jpg
The finding, linkurl:published today;http://www.plosgenetics.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pgen.1001284 (January 27) in PLoS Genetics, could change the way scientists study and model biological networks and protein evolution."Even at a meeting last summer, there were those that thought that bacteria genomes expanded mostly through duplications and others that argued that it was due to gene acquisition," wrote linkurl:Howard Ochman,;http://www.biochem.arizona.edu/ochman/index.htm an evolutionary biologist at Yale University who was not involved in the research, in an Email to The Scientist. "Now we all have a paper to point to that does a very good job of answering this question," he said. "Their conclusions are really robust."Prokaryotes, including bacteria and archaea, thrive in diverse conditions thanks to their ability to rapidly modify their...
Treangen, T.J. et al., "Horizontal Transfer, Not Duplication, Drives the Expansion of Protein Families in Prokaryotes," PLoS Genetics, 7:e1101284, 2011.

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?