, Volume 48, Issue 2, pp 228-242

Phylogeny vs genome reshuffling: horizontal gene transfer

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The evolutionary events in organisms can be tracked to the transfer of genetic material. The inheritance of genetic material among closely related organisms is a slow evolutionary process. On the other hand, the movement of genes among distantly related species can account for rapid evolution. The later process has been quite evident in the appearance of antibiotic resistance genes among human and animal pathogens. Phylogenetic trees based on such genes and those involved in metabolic activities reflect the incongruencies in comparison to the 16S rDNA gene, generally used for taxonomic relationships. Such discrepancies in gene inheritance have been termed as horizontal gene transfer (HGT) events. In the post-genomic era, the explosion of known sequences through large-scale sequencing projects has unraveled the weakness of traditional 16S rDNA gene tree based evolutionary model. Various methods to scrutinize HGT events include atypical composition, abnormal sequence similarity, anomalous phylogenetic distribution, unusual phyletic patterns, etc. Since HGT generates greater genetic diversity, it is likely to increase resource use and ecosystem resilience.