Lateral gene transfers and the origins of the eukaryote proteome: a view from microbial parasites

Curr Opin Microbiol. 2015 Feb:23:155-62. doi: 10.1016/j.mib.2014.11.018. Epub 2014 Dec 5.


Our knowledge of the extent and functional impact of lateral gene transfer (LGT) from prokaryotes to eukaryotes, outside of endosymbiosis, is still rather limited. Here we review the recent literature, focusing mainly on microbial parasites, indicating that LGT from diverse prokaryotes has played a significant role in the evolution of a number of lineages, and by extension throughout eukaryotic evolution. As might be expected, taxonomic biases for donor prokaryotes indicate that shared habitat is a major factor driving transfers. The LGTs identified predominantly affect enzymes from metabolic pathways, but over a third of LGT are genes for putative proteins of unknown function. Finally, we discuss the difficulties in analysing LGT among eukaryotes and suggest that high-throughput methodologies integrating different approaches are needed to achieve a more global understanding of the importance of LGT in eukaryotic evolution.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Eukaryota / chemistry*
  • Eukaryota / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal*
  • Humans
  • Prokaryotic Cells*
  • Proteome / analysis*


  • Proteome