Integron associated mobile genes: Just a collection of plug in apps or essential components of cell network hardware?

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Mob Genet Elements, 2012, 2 (1), pp. 13 - 18
Issue Date:
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Lateral gene transfer (LGT) impacts on the evolution of prokaryotes in both the short and long-term. The short-term impacts of mobilized genes are a concern to humans since LGT explains the global rise of multi drug resistant pathogens seen in the past 70 years. However, LGT has been a feature of prokaryotes from the earliest days of their existence and the concept of a bifurcating tree of life is not entirely applicable to prokaryotes since most genes in extant prokaryotic genomes have probably been acquired from other lineages. Successful transfer and maintenance of a gene in a new host is understandable if it acts independently of cell networks and confers an advantage. Antibiotic resistance provides an example of this whereby a gene can be advantageous in virtually any cell across broad species backgrounds. In a longer evolutionary context however laterally transferred genes can be assimilated into even essential cell networks. How this happens is not well understood and we discuss recent work that identifies a mobile gene, unique to a cell lineage, which is detrimental to the cell when lost. We also present some additional data and believe our emerging model will be helpful in understanding how mobile genes integrate into cell networks.
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