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Widespread of horizontal gene transfer in the human genome

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Background: A fundamental concept in biology is that heritable material is passed from parents to offspring, a process called vertical gene transfer. An alternative mechanism of gene acquisition is through horizontal gene transfer (HGT), which involves movement of genetic materials between different species. Horizontal gene transfer has been found prevalent in prokaryotes but very rare in eukaryote. In this paper, we investigate horizontal gene transfer in the human genome. Results: From the pair-wise alignments between human genome and 53 vertebrate genomes, 1,467 human genome regions (2.6 M bases) from all chromosomes were found to be more conserved with non-mammals than with most mammals. These human genome regions involve 642 known genes, which are enriched with ion binding. Compared to known horizontal gene transfer regions in the human genome, there were few overlapping regions, which indicated horizontal gene transfer is more common than we expected in the human genome. Conclusions: Horizontal gene transfer impacts hundreds of human genes and this study provided insight into potential mechanisms of HGT in the human genome.




Huang, W., Tsai, L., Li, Y., Hua, N., Sun, C., & Wei, C. (2017). Widespread of horizontal gene transfer in the human genome. BMC Genomics, 18(1).

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