A dispute over whether bacterial genes have been transferred directly to humans is laid to rest in this week’s Nature (Vol. 411, No. 6840, 21 Jun 200).
Numerous genes in the recently published human genome were found to be highly similar to bacterial genes, leading to the claim that they got there by ‘horizontal transfer’.
This interpretation is now firmly refuted by Michael Stanhope, James R Brown, and colleagues of GlaxoSmithKline in Pennsylvania, who, by drawing up evolutionary trees, have shown that the presence of such genes can actually be explained by descent through common ancestors.
Their findings should settle the score for evolutionary biologists disgruntled at the initial report, and reassure those concerned about horizontal gene transfers from genetically modified organisms, for which the team’s research finds no evidence. "It’s a very important scientific and public information record to set straight," says Stanhope.
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James R Brown
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(C) Nature press release.
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