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Horizontal gene transfer of Chlamydia: Novel insights from tree reconciliation

PLoS ONE | 5 Apr 2018
Recent comparative genomics studies have suggested that horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is one of the major processes in bacterial evolution. In this study, HGT events of 64 Chlamydia strains were investigated based on the pipeline employed in HGTree database constructed in our recent study. Tree reconciliation method was applied in order to calculate feasible HGT events. Following initial detection and an evaluation procedure, evidence of the HGT was identified in 548 gene families including 42 gene families transferred from outside of Chlamydiae phylum with high reliability. The donor species of inter-phylum HGT consists of 12 different bacterial and archaeal phyla, suggesting that Chlamydia might have even more various host range than in previous reports. In addition, each species of Chlamydia showed varying preference towards HGT, and genes engaged in HGT within Chlamydia and between other species showed different functional distribution. Also, examination of individual gene flows of niche-specific genes suggested that many of such genes are transferred mainly within Chlamydia genus. Our results uncovered novel features of HGT acting on Chlamydia genome evolution, and it would be also strong evidence that HGT is an ongoing process for intracellular pathogens. We expect that the results provide more insight into lineage- and niche-specific adaptations regarding their infectivity and pathogenicity.

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