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Front. Microbiol. | doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2017.01536

Horizontally Acquired Genes Are Often Shared Between Closely Related Bacterial Species

  • 1Department of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Rappaport Family Institute for Research in the Medical Sciences, Israel

Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) serves as an important source of innovation for bacterial species. We used a pangenome-based approach to identify genes that were horizontally acquired by four closely related bacterial species, belonging to the Enterobacteriaceae family. This enabled us to examine the extent to which such closely related species tend to share horizontally acquired genes. We found that a high percent of horizontally acquired genes are shared among these closely related species. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the extent of sharing of horizontally acquired genes among these four closely related species is predictive of the extent to which these genes will be found in additional bacterial species. Finally, we show that acquired genes shared by more species tend to be better optimized for expression within the genomes of their new hosts. Combined, our results demonstrate the existence of a large pool of frequently horizontally acquired genes that have distinct characteristics from horizontally acquired genes that are less frequently shared between species.

Keywords: gene content, pangenome, bacterial evolution, horizontal gene transfer, Genome composition

Received: 21 Jun 2017; Accepted: 28 Jul 2017.

Edited by:

Vasco A. Azevedo, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil

Reviewed by:

Siomar D. Soares, Universidade Federal do Triângulo Mineiro, Brazil
Alice R. Wattam, Virginia Tech, United States  

Copyright: © 2017 Bolotin and Hershberg. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Ruth Hershberg, Rappaport Family Institute for Research in the Medical Sciences, Department of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Efron St. 1, Haifa, 31096, Israel, ruthersh@tx.technion.ac.il