Evolution of prokaryotic genomes

Gene. 1993 Dec 15;135(1-2):49-56. doi: 10.1016/0378-1119(93)90048-8.


Molecular genetics, which has its roots mainly in the development of microbial genetics in the middle of this century, not only greatly facilitates investigations of essential cellular functions, but also offers a means to better understand evolutionary progress. Spontaneous mutagenesis, the driving force of biological evolution, depends on a multitude of mechanistically distinct processes, many of which are already quite well understood. Often, enzymes act as variation generators, and natural gene vectors help to spread functional domains, entire genes and groups of genes across natural isolation barriers. In this overview, particular attention is given to comparing three selected natural strategies for the generation of genetic diversity: nucleotide substitution, DNA rearrangements, and gene acquisition. All of these mechanisms, as well as many others, appear to fulfill their specific roles in microbial evolution. Rather than being the result of an accumulation of errors, biological evolution may depend on a multitude of specific biological functions, as well as on a certain degree of intrinsic structural flexibility of biological molecules.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Mutation
  • Prokaryotic Cells*
  • Recombination, Genetic