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Impact Factor

Review ARTICLE

Front. Microbiol., 26 July 2011 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2011.00158

Horizontal gene exchange in environmental microbiota

  • Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK

Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) plays an important role in the evolution of life on the Earth. This view is supported by numerous occasions of HGT that are recorded in the genomes of all three domains of living organisms. HGT-mediated rapid evolution is especially noticeable among the Bacteria, which demonstrate formidable adaptability in the face of recent environmental changes imposed by human activities, such as the use of antibiotics, industrial contamination, and intensive agriculture. At the heart of the HGT-driven bacterial evolution and adaptation are highly sophisticated natural genetic engineering tools in the form of a variety of mobile genetic elements (MGEs). The main aim of this review is to give a brief account of the occurrence and diversity of MGEs in natural ecosystems and of the environmental factors that may affect MGE-mediated HGT.

Keywords: horizontal gene transfer, soil, aquatic ecosystems, gut, biofilm

Citation: Aminov RI (2011) Horizontal gene exchange in environmental microbiota. Front. Microbio. 2:158. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2011.00158

Received: 15 April 2011; Paper pending published: 23 May 2011;
Accepted: 11 July 2011; Published online: 26 July 2011.

Edited by:

Kornelia Smalla, Julius Kühn-Institut, Germany

Reviewed by:

Charles Knapp, University of Strathclyde, UK
Ed Topp, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Canada

Copyright: © 2011 Aminov. This is an open-access article subject to a non-exclusive license between the authors and Frontiers Media SA, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and other Frontiers conditions are complied with.

*Correspondence: Rustam I. Aminov, Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, College of Life Sciences and Medicine, University of Aberdeen, Greenburn Road, Aberdeen AB21 9SB, UK. e-mail: r.aminov@abdn.ac.uk