Mechanisms of, and barriers to, horizontal gene transfer between bacteria

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2005 Sep;3(9):711-21. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro1234.


Bacteria evolve rapidly not only by mutation and rapid multiplication, but also by transfer of DNA, which can result in strains with beneficial mutations from more than one parent. Transformation involves the release of naked DNA followed by uptake and recombination. Homologous recombination and DNA-repair processes normally limit this to DNA from similar bacteria. However, if a gene moves onto a broad-host-range plasmid it might be able to spread without the need for recombination. There are barriers to both these processes but they reduce, rather than prevent, gene acquisition.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Conjugation, Genetic / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Transfer Techniques*
  • Models, Genetic
  • Mutation
  • Transformation, Bacterial / genetics