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Section 26.5: Horizontal Gene
By Monica Macaro
Learning Objectives
Explain why horizontal gene transfer
can complicate evolutionary hypothesis
Explain why the "Tree of Life" is being replaced by the
"Web of Life"
Horizontal Gene Transfer
Process in which an
organism incorporates
genetic material from
another organism without
being its offspring
Common in bacteria and
archaea, rare in eukaryotic
Genetic information
transferred via conjugation,
transduction, and
Horizontal Gene Transfer in Eukaryotes
Not well understood
Hard to detect
Frequency and importance in multicellular eukaryotes
hard to evaluate
Rare due to sexual reproduction and multicellularity
More common in certain unicellular eukaryotes (e.g protists)
HGT genes only transferred to offspring in multicellular
eukaryotes if recipient was a gamete/germ cell
Eukaryote may ingest bacterial cell via endocytosis and
incorporate a bacterial gene
Bacterial gene may escape degradation
Gene incorporated into genome via nonhomologous
Genes may be transferred via viruses
Viral DNA incorporated into recipient's DNA
About 8% of human genome originates from viruses
Horizontal Gene Transfer in Eukaryote
Horizontal Gene Transfer and Evolution
Evolutionary hypothesis focuses on vertical evolution
(changes in species due to descent from common
Genes can be transferred between species via HGT
New genes may benefit/hinder organism’s chance for survival
May foster evolutionary change
HGT may have been prevalent during life’s early stages
Common ancestor may have been a community of cell lineage
evolving as a whole rather than a single cell lineage
Muddles concept of monophyletic groups
“Web of Life” instead of “Tree of Life”
HGT indicated by horizontal connections
The Web of Life