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Jumping Genes Cross Plant Species Boundaries

20.12.2005


In recent years horizontal, or lateral, gene transfer has been seen frequently in prokaryotes and also occasionally in eukaryotes. This lateral transfer involves the movement of genetic material between species as opposed to the vertical transfer of genes from parent to progeny. Horizontal transfer has been observed between the mitochondrial DNA of different plant species. Until now, however, no one had found evidence for horizontal transfer in the nuclear DNA of plants.

In a new study published online in the open access journal PLoS Biology, Xianmin Diao, Michael Freeling, and Damon Lisch analyzed the genomes of millet and rice, two distantly related grasses that diverged 30–60 million years ago. They found evidence for a case of horizontal gene transfer; despite significant genetic divergence from millions of years of mutations, they carry some nuclear DNA segments that are surprisingly similar. These segments contain transposon-related sequences (MULEs); transposons are genetic elements capable of independently replicating and inserting the copy into new positions in DNA.

To dispel alternative explanations for these similar segments, the authors investigated whether they could have been the result of positive selection acting to preserve these sequences. However, similarity of non-coding regions of the sequences in millet and rice was as high as the coding regions, and even synonymous mutations, which do not alter the protein sequence, were very few. The authors discount another explanation—that these sequences might occur within a genomic region subject to a lower mutation rate in general—with the help of maize (as complete genomic sequence data for the surrounding region in millet is not available). The sequences did not show the similar degree of reduced variation predicted for below-average mutation rates.



Since neither selection nor low mutation frequency can explain the similar DNA between the grasses, the authors conclude, a transposon must have carried it between millet and rice long after these species diverged. Interestingly, the authors also found similar sequences in bamboo, raising the question of how common horizontal transfer may be between plant species. Given that plant mitochondrial genes appear “particularly prone to horizontal transfer,” the authors note, “it is remarkable that these results represent the first well-documented case of horizontal transfer of nuclear genes between plants.” But as researchers begin to explore the growing databases of plant genomic sequences, they can determine whether this finding constitutes an anomaly—or points to a significant force in plant genome evolution.

Citation: Diao X, Freeling M, Lisch D (2006) Horizontal transfer of a plant transposon. PLoS Biol 4(1): e5.

THE FOLLOWING RESEARCH ARTICLES WILL ALSO BE PUBLISHED ONLINE:

Conserved and Variable Functions of the óE Stress Response in Related Genomes

A model for predicting the variable promoter sequences associated with the bacterial stress response is developed and used to identify constituents of the transcriptional response to óE.

Citation: Rhodius VA, Suh WC, Nonaka G, West J, Gross CA (2006) Conserved and variable functions of the óE stress response in related genomes. PLoS Biol 4(1): e2.

PLEASE ADD THE LINK TO THE PUBLISHED ARTICLE IN ONLINE VERSIONS OF YOUR REPORT: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0040002

PRESS ONLY PREVIEW OF THE ARTICLE: http://www.plos.org/press/plbi-04-01-gross.pdf

CONTACT:
Carol A. Gross
University of California, San Francisco
Genentech Hall
600 16th St
San Francisco, CA USA 94143-2200
+1-415-476-4161
+1-415-514-4080 (fax)
cgross@cgl.ucsf.edu

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PLEASE ADD THE LINK TO THE PUBLISHED ARTICLE IN ONLINE VERSIONS OF YOUR REPORT: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0040003

PRESS ONLY PREVIEW OF THE ARTICLE: http://www.plos.org/press/plbi-04-01-ruan.pdf

CONTACT:
Yijun Ruan
Genome Institute of Singapore
60 Biopolis Street
Singapore, Singapore 138672
+65-6478-8073
ruanyj@gis.a-star.edu.sg

Identification of Drosophila Gene Products Required for Phagocytosis of Candida albicans

Mcr and the closely related Drosophila Tep proteins (proteins similar to mammalian secreted immune complement) bind to the surface of invading microbes and are required to promote the phagocytosis of specific pathogens.

Citation: Stroschein-Stevenson SL, Foley E, O’Farrell PH, Johnson AD (2006) Identification of Drosophila gene products required for phagocytosis of Candida albicans. PLoS Biol 4(1): e4.

PLEASE ADD THE LINK TO THE PUBLISHED ARTICLE IN ONLINE VERSIONS OF YOUR REPORT: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0040004

PRESS ONLY PREVIEW OF THE ARTICLE: http://www.plos.org/press/plbi-04-01-johnson.pdf

CONTACT:
Alexander D. Johnson
University of California, San Francisco
Mission Bay Genentech Hall
600 16th Street, Box 2200
San Francisco, CA USA 94143-2200
+1-415-476-8097
+1-415-502-4315 (fax)
ajohnson@cgl.ucsf.edu

Ets1-related protein is a key regulator of vasculogenesis in zebrafish

The authors report on a novel protein, Ets1 related protein (Etsrp), which is both necessary and sufficient for the development of the endothelial cells that line blood vessels (angioblasts).

Citation: Sumanas S, Lin S (2006) Ets1-related protein is a key regulator of vasculogenesis in zebrafish. PLoS Biol 4(1): e10.

PLEASE ADD THE LINK TO THE PUBLISHED ARTICLE IN ONLINE VERSIONS OF YOUR REPORT: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0040010

PRESS ONLY PREVIEW OF THE ARTICLE: http://www.plos.org/press/plbi-04-01-lin.pdf

CONTACT:
Shuo Lin
University of California, Los Angeles
621 C. Young Dr. South
Los Angeles, CA USA 90095
+1-310-267-4970
+1-310-206-4971 (fax)
shuolin@ucla.edu

Paul Ocampo | alfa
Further information:
http://www.plosbiology.org
http://www.plos.org

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