Gene Transfer Between Micro-Organisms in the Phyllosphere

  • Mark J. Bailey
  • Andrew K. Lilley
  • Julian P. Diaper


When considering the factors that influence the population biology of micro-organisms in natural environments, such as the surface of plants (the phytosphere), it is reasonable to assume that active gene transfer takes place. But, despite a large number of reports describing the isolation of mobile genetic elements from natural microbial communities no data is currently available that allows the quantification of such events. The ability to predict relative transfer frequencies and determine the ecological significance of changing genotypes is relevant to microbial ecologists and necessary for assessing the potential impact and risk associated with the environmental release of large quantities of bacterial inocula or genetically modified micro-organisms (GMMs) (Tiedje et al., 1989). The growing interest in the population genetics of natural bacterial communities (see Baumberg et al., 1995) has led to an appreciation of the central role that mobile genetic elements play in the dissemination of information necessary for the evolution of microbial communities. Although the rate of assimilation and adaptation of communities varies, variation can be linked to a range of factors which are influenced by immediate and diffuse changes in the local environmental conditions. Examples of immediate adaptation include the rapid rate at which the acquisition of antibiotic drug resistance spreads through microbial populations of medical, veterinary and agricultural importance. It is generally agreed that such resistances are sustained by the imposed selective pressures of chemotherapy or the widespread application of antibiotics and anti-microbial compounds. The rate of response can be attributed to the plethora of mechanisms that have evolved to disseminate genetic information within and between communities.


Gene Transfer Sugar Beet Fluorescent Pseudomonad Mobile Genetic Element Plasmid Transfer 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark J. Bailey
    • 1
  • Andrew K. Lilley
    • 1
  • Julian P. Diaper
    • 1
  1. 1.NERC, Institute of Virology and Environmental MicrobiologyMolecular Microbial Ecology GroupOxfordUK

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