Why do bacteria engage in homologous recombination?

Trends Microbiol. 2009 Jun;17(6):226-32. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2009.03.001. Epub 2009 May 20.


Microbiologists have long recognized that the uptake and incorporation of homologous DNA from outside the cell is a common feature of bacteria, with important implications for their evolution. However, the exact reasons why bacteria engage in homologous recombination remain elusive. This Opinion article aims to reinvigorate the debate by examining the costs and benefits that homologous recombination could engender in natural populations of bacteria. It specifically focuses on the hypothesis that homologous recombination is selectively maintained because the genetic variation it generates improves the response of bacterial populations to natural selection, analogous to sex in eukaryotes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Recombination, Genetic*
  • Selection, Genetic