Lateral gene transfer and the nature of bacterial innovation

Nature. 2000 May 18;405(6784):299-304. doi: 10.1038/35012500.


Unlike eukaryotes, which evolve principally through the modification of existing genetic information, bacteria have obtained a significant proportion of their genetic diversity through the acquisition of sequences from distantly related organisms. Horizontal gene transfer produces extremely dynamic genomes in which substantial amounts of DNA are introduced into and deleted from the chromosome. These lateral transfers have effectively changed the ecological and pathogenic character of bacterial species.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteriophages / genetics
  • Conjugation, Genetic
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Recombination, Genetic*
  • Transformation, Bacterial
  • Virulence / genetics


  • DNA, Bacterial