Prokaryote genome fluidity: toward a system approach of the mobilome

Methods Mol Biol. 2012;804:57-80. doi: 10.1007/978-1-61779-361-5_4.


The importance of horizontal/lateral gene transfer (LGT) in shaping the genomes of prokaryotic organisms has been recognized in recent years as a result of analysis of the increasing number of available genome sequences. LGT is largely due to the transfer and recombination activities of mobile genetic elements (MGEs). Bacterial and archaeal genomes are mosaics of vertically and horizontally transmitted DNA segments. This generates reticulate relationships between members of the prokaryotic world that are better represented by networks than by "classical" phylogenetic trees. In this review we summarize the nature and activities of MGEs, and the problems that presently limit their analysis on a large scale. We propose routes to improve their annotation in the flow of genomic and metagenomic sequences that currently exist and those that become available. We describe network analysis of evolutionary relationships among some MGE categories and sketch out possible developments of this type of approach to get more insight into the role of the mobilome in bacterial adaptation and evolution.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriophages / classification
  • Bacteriophages / genetics
  • Conjugation, Genetic / physiology
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal / genetics*
  • Genome, Archaeal / genetics*
  • Genome, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Homologous Recombination / physiology
  • Interspersed Repetitive Sequences / genetics*
  • Molecular Sequence Annotation / methods
  • Systems Biology / methods*
  • Transformation, Bacterial / physiology