Much ado about bacteria-to-vertebrate lateral gene transfer

Trends Genet. 2003 Apr;19(4):191-5. doi: 10.1016/S0168-9525(03)00055-6.


When the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium (IHGSC) published its draft of the human genome in February 2001, several genes were identified as possible bacteria-to-vertebrate transfers (BVTs). These genes were identified by their highly significant sequence similarity to bacterial genes in BLAST searches, and by their lack of matches among non-vertebrate eukaryote genes. Many were later rejected as BVTs by several methods, including recovery of probable orthologs from the genomes of incompletely sequenced eukaryotes. Whereas the BVT issue has received considerable attention, there has been no compilation of all potential BVTs considered to date, nor any proposal of a single comprehensive method for rigorously establishing the veracity of a putative BVT. In reviewing the work to date, we list all of the proteins examined and propose systematic tests to investigate whether a vertebrate gene proposed as a BVT is indeed of bacterial origin. We use the proposed strategy to test--and reject--one of the BVTs from the original IHGSC list.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Dictyostelium / genetics
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal*
  • Genome, Human*
  • Humans
  • Phylogeny
  • Vertebrates / genetics*