Packaging random snippets of DNA into virus-like capsules known as gene transfer agents, or GTAs, may be a key way for marine bacteria to exchange genetic information, a new linkurl:paper; in __Science__ suggests.
Some GTAs resemble viruses that infect
bacteria such as Lambda phage

While this gene-swapping mechanism has been known for decades, the extent to which GTAs were relevant to microbes in the real world was unclear, having been observed in a limited number of species and almost exclusively inside microbiology labs. But a team of researchers, headed by University of South Florida marine microbiologist linkurl:John Paul,; demonstrated that GTAs isolated from lab-grown bacteria conferred antibiotic resistance to a wide range of microbes naturally growing in the warm waters of the Gulf Coast, and at a much higher rate than expected."This could represent a paradigm shift in how we view gene transfer in nature," said linkurl:Thaddeus Stanton,; a...
L.D. McDaniel, et al., "High frequency of horizontal gene transfer in the Oceans," Science, 330:50, 2010.

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