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Bacteriophage-Mediated Horizontal Gene Transfer: Transduction


Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) can create tremendous genetic diversity in organisms, especially those which reproduce asexually. The three classical mechanisms for HGT in prokaryotes are transformation, conjugation, and transduction. Historically, conjugation and transformation were considered to be the major contributors to bacterial HGT, but recent studies indicate that the role of transduction has been underestimated. Bacteriophages are the most abundant biological entities on the planet and contain a vast supply of genetic diversity. Whole genome sequencing of bacterial species has demonstrated that many bacterial virulence factors are encoded by phage or phage-like elements and that often prophage sequences are the major source of variation between bacterial strains. Bacteriophage-mediated HGT occurs through either generalized or specialized transduction. Generalized transducing particles are generated by aberrant packaging of host DNA in place of the viral genome and have the potential to transfer large blocks of bacterial DNA in a single particle. Specialized transducing particles contain a hybrid DNA molecule consisting of viral genes in combination with a small fragment of bacterial DNA. The hybrid DNA molecule associated with these particles is generated by excision from the host genome of a prophage that had been integrated during its lysogenic cycle. This chapter reviews some of the history behind the discovery of transduction, provides an in-depth view of some classic examples of transducing phages, and examines the continued impact of bacteriophage-mediated HGT on current issues such as antibiotic resistance and the safety of phage therapy.

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Correspondence to Christine L. Schneider .

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© 2017 Springer International Publishing AG

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Schneider, C.L. (2017). Bacteriophage-Mediated Horizontal Gene Transfer: Transduction. In: Harper, D., Abedon, S., Burrowes, B., McConville, M. (eds) Bacteriophages. Springer, Cham.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-3-319-40598-8

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