Packaging random snippets of DNA into virus-like capsules known as gene transfer agents, or GTAs, may be a key way for marine bacteria to exchange genetic information, a new paper in Science suggests.
While this gene-swapping mechanism has been known for decades, the extent to which GTAs were relevant to microbes in the real world was unclear, having been observed in a limited number of species and almost exclusively inside microbiology labs.
But a team of researchers, headed by University of South Florida marine microbiologist John Paul, demonstrated that GTAs isolated from lab-grown bacteria conferred antibiotic resistance to a wide range of microbes naturally growing in the warm waters of the Gulf Coast, and at a much higher rate than expected.(More at link)
L.D. McDaniel, et al., “High frequency of horizontal gene transfer in the Oceans,” Science, 330:50, 2010.