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The frequency and evolution of lateral gene transfer by dna repair mechanisms

PI(s): Tal Dagan (Duesseldorf University)
Start Date: 12-Jun-2008
End Date: 21-Jun-2008
Keywords: gene structure and function

Lateral gene transfer (LGT), the ability of an organism to acquire genetic material and incorporate it into its genome, is a fundamental process in prokaryote evolution. Although much is known about the cellular mechanisms for the import of an extra-cellular DNA into the cell, less is known about the mechanisms for the integration of the newly acquired DNA into the genome. Until recently it was thought that the DNA integration is done almost solely by homologous recombination, but recent studies revealed that some prokaryotes posses DNA double-strand break (DBS) repair pathway, showing some similarity to the eukaryotic one, that might be involved also in LGT. Here we propose to study the contribution of DNA repair mechanisms to LGT in prokaryotes. We hypothesis that prokaryotes possessing genes for DBS repair by non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) are expected to have an improved ability to acquire genes from distantly related (non-homologous) species. To test this, we will scan prokaryote genomes for recent LGT from distantly related donors, and test for relations between their frequency and the presence of NHEJ genes. Our results are expected to shed light both on the taxonomic sources for newly acquired genes, as well as the evolution of DNA repair pathways in prokaryotes.

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