Horizontal Gene Transfer and Genome Evolution in the Phylum Actinobacteria

  • Cooper J. Park
  • Joshua T. Smith
  • Cheryl P. AndamEmail author


Actinobacteria constitute one of the largest phyla in the bacterial domain, with many species known for their large genome sizes and high G + C content. Members of this phylum exhibit a wide range of morphological, physiological, and metabolic properties and are ubiquitously distributed in diverse ecological niches. The phylum includes pathogens, symbionts of plants and invertebrates, gastrointestinal commensals, and free-living bacteria. Many species are well known for their ability to produce a plethora of natural products relevant to agriculture, biotechnology, and medicine, including majority of naturally derived antibiotics widely used in clinics. In this chapter, we discuss recent advances that highlight the role of horizontal gene transfer (HGT) in the evolutionary history, genomic structure, and ecological diversity of Actinobacteria, with emphasis on HGT between species and between phyla. We highlight genome studies that describe how HGT has contributed to the success of promiscuous antibiotic producers as well as the pathogens that they target. We conclude with how methods in population genomics can be used to elucidate the impacts of selective pressures and environmental changes on rates and patterns of HGT in various Actinobacteria species and populations.


Horizontal gene transfer Genome Evolution Actinobacteria Biosynthetic gene clusters 


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Cooper J. Park
    • 1
  • Joshua T. Smith
    • 1
  • Cheryl P. Andam
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Molecular, Cellular and Biomedical SciencesUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA

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