Gene transfer has been identified as a prevalent and pervasive phenomenon and an important source of genomic innovation in bacteria. The role of gene transfer in microbial eukaryotes seems to be of a reduced magnitude but in some cases can drive important evolutionary innovations, such as new functions that underpin the colonization of different niches. The aim of this review is to summarize published cases that support the hypothesis that horizontal gene transfer (HGT) has played a role in the evolution of phytopathogenic traits in fungi and oomycetes. Our survey of the literature identifies 46 proposed cases of transfer of genes that have a putative or experimentally demonstrable phytopathogenic function. When considering the life-cycle steps through which a pathogen must progress, the majority of the HGTs identified are associated with invading, degrading, and manipulating the host. Taken together, these data suggest HGT has played a role in shaping how fungi and oomycetes colonize plant hosts.
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