‘Scientists at the University of Rochester and the J. Craig Venter Institute have discovered a copy of the entire genome of a bacterial parasite residing inside the genome of its host species.
The finding, reported in Science August 30, suggests that lateral gene transfer–the movement of genes between unrelated species–may happen much more frequently between bacteria and multicellular organisms than scientists previously believed, posing dramatic implications for evolution.
Such large-scale heritable gene transfers may allow species to acquire new genes and functions extremely quickly, says Jack Werren, a principle investigator of the study.
The results also have serious repercussions for genome-sequencing projects. Bacterial DNA is routinely discarded when scientists are assembling invertebrate genomes, yet these genes may very well be part of the organism’s genome, and might even be responsible for functioning traits.’