Horizontal gene transfer in eukaryotic evolution

Nat Rev Genet. 2008 Aug;9(8):605-18. doi: 10.1038/nrg2386.


Horizontal gene transfer (HGT; also known as lateral gene transfer) has had an important role in eukaryotic genome evolution, but its importance is often overshadowed by the greater prevalence and our more advanced understanding of gene transfer in prokaryotes. Recurrent endosymbioses and the generally poor sampling of most nuclear genes from diverse lineages have also complicated the search for transferred genes. Nevertheless, the number of well-supported cases of transfer from both prokaryotes and eukaryotes, many with significant functional implications, is now expanding rapidly. Major recent trends include the important role of HGT in adaptation to certain specialized niches and the highly variable impact of HGT in different lineages.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological / genetics
  • Adaptation, Biological / physiology
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • DNA Transposable Elements / physiology
  • Eukaryotic Cells* / metabolism
  • Eukaryotic Cells* / physiology
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal / physiology*
  • Genome
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Phylogeny
  • Plants / genetics
  • Prokaryotic Cells / metabolism
  • Prokaryotic Cells / physiology
  • Protein Transport / physiology
  • Symbiosis / genetics


  • DNA Transposable Elements