Lateral Gene Transfer Mechanisms and Pan-genomes in Eukaryotes

Trends Parasitol. 2020 Nov;36(11):927-941. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2020 Aug 19.


Lateral gene transfer (LGT) is well known as an important driver of genome evolution in bacteria and archaea, but its importance in eukaryote evolution has yet to be fully elucidated. There is now abundant evidence indicating that LGT has played a role in the adaptation of eukaryotes to new environments and conditions, including host-parasite interactions. However, the mechanisms and frequency of LGT across the tree of eukaryotes remain poorly understood. Here we review evidence for known and potential mechanisms of LGT into diverse eukaryote lineages with a particular focus on protists, and we discuss trends emerging from recently reported examples. We also explore the potential role of LGT in generating 'pan-genomes' in diverse eukaryotic species.

Keywords: eukaryote genomes; horizontal gene transfer; lateral gene transfer; pan-genomes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Eukaryota / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal / genetics*
  • Genome / genetics*
  • Genome, Protozoan / genetics
  • Host-Parasite Interactions / genetics