Horizontal Gene Transfer in Choanoflagellates


  • Conflict of interest: none to declare.

Department of Cell Biology and Human Anatomy, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA 95616. E-mail: rptucker@ucdavis.edu


Horizontal gene transfer (HGT), also known as lateral gene transfer, results in the rapid acquisition of genes from another organism. HGT has long been known to be a driving force in speciation in prokaryotes, and there is evidence for HGT from symbiotic and infectious bacteria to metazoans, as well as from protists to bacteria. Recently, it has become clear that as many as a 1,000 genes in the genome of the choanoflagellate Monosiga brevicollis may have been acquired by HGT. Interestingly, these genes reportedly come from algae, bacteria, and other choanoflagellate prey. Some of these genes appear to have allowed an ancestral choanoflagellate to exploit nutrient-poor environments and were not passed on to metazoan descendents. However, some of these genes are also found in animal genomes, suggesting that HGT into a common ancestor of choanozoans and animals may have contributed to metazoan evolution. J. Exp. Zool. (Mol. Dev. Evol.) 320B:1–9, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.