Prokaryotes demonstrate tremendous variation in gene content, even within individual bacterial clones or lineages. This diversity is made possible by the ability of bacteria to horizontally transfer DNA through a variety of mechanisms, and the extent of such transfer sets them apart from eukaryotes. What has become evident through interrogation of thousands of bacterial genomes is that gene variation is directly related to the ecology of the organism and is driven by continual processes of niche exploration, diversification, and adaptation. Of course, the acquisition of new genes is not necessarily beneficial, resulting in either the removal of that individual through purifying selection or the occurrence of compensatory mutations in the genomic “backbone” (i.e., core genes) that become epistatically linked to the presence accessory genes. There are now numerous examples of relationship between gene variation and niche adaptation. We explore some of those examples here as well as the population genomic footprint left by the dynamics of gene flow, diversification, and adaptation.
Copyright 2020, The Author(s).