Host-to-parasite Gene Transfer in Flowering Plants: Phylogenetic Evidence From Malpighiales

Science. 2004 Jul 30;305(5684):676-8. doi: 10.1126/science.1100671. Epub 2004 Jul 15.


Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) between sexually unrelated species has recently been documented for higher plants, but mechanistic explanations for HGTs have remained speculative. We show that a parasitic relationship may facilitate HGT between flowering plants. The endophytic parasites Rafflesiaceae are placed in the diverse order Malpighiales. Our multigene phylogenetic analyses of Malpighiales show that mitochondrial (matR) and nuclear loci (18S ribosomal DNA and PHYC) place Rafflesiaceae in Malpighiales, perhaps near Ochnaceae/Clusiaceae. Mitochondrial nad1B-C, however, groups them within Vitaceae, near their obligate host Tetrastigma. These discordant phylogenetic hypotheses strongly suggest that part of the mitochondrial genome in Rafflesiaceae was acquired via HGT from their hosts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Nucleus / genetics
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Flowers
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal*
  • Genes, Plant
  • Magnoliopsida / classification*
  • Magnoliopsida / genetics*
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / genetics
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Vitaceae / classification*
  • Vitaceae / genetics*
  • Vitaceae / parasitology


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Plant Proteins