Genetic escape pods
Microbes share and preserve their genetic material by releasing bodies that resemble viruses into the environment
[Published 1st October 2010 02:49 PM GMT at The Scientist]
Packaging random snippets of DNA into virus-like capsules known as gene transfer agents, or GTAs, may be a key way for marine bacteria to exchange genetic information, a new paper in Science suggests.
While this gene-swapping mechanism has been known for decades, the extent to which GTAs were relevant to microbes in the real world was unclear, having been observed in a limited number of species and almost exclusively inside microbiology labs.
But a team of researchers, headed by University of South Florida marine microbiologist John Paul, demonstrated that GTAs isolated from lab-grown bacteria conferred antibiotic resistance to a wide range of microbes naturally growing in the warm waters of the Gulf Coast, and at a much higher rate than expected.(More at link)
L.D. McDaniel, et al., “High frequency of horizontal gene transfer in the Oceans,” Science, 330:50, 2010.
This sounds a lot more like natural selection/evolution than genetic modification. But then again, I’m no applied geneticist.
You are right. In evolution, genes often move between different species. If it were done in the lab, it would be called genetic modification.
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