Inteins as Indicators of Bio-Communication
Genetic information is stored in DNA molecules, horizontal gene transfer shares this information between organisms. The transfer of genetic information thus is an important method of bio-communication. Communities of organisms made up of either the same species, or different species can transfer genetic material between community members. In Bacteria and Archaea these transfers are unidirectional, except for mating described for Haloarchaea (Naor et al. 2012) and possibly also occurring in other archaea. Inteins are selfish genetic elements found in all domains of life. As is the case for most mobile selfish genetic elements, horizontal gene transfer is an important part of the intein’s life cycle. Several unique properties of inteins make them particularly well suited as markers of horizontal gene transfer pathways. In this chapter, we explore these properties, and provide examples of their uses to reveal patterns of horizontal gene transfer.
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