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      Horizontal Gene Exchange in Environmental Microbiota

      1

      Frontiers in Microbiology

      Frontiers Research Foundation

      horizontal gene transfer, soil, aquatic ecosystems, gut, biofilm

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          Abstract

          Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) plays an important role in the evolution of life on the Earth. This view is supported by numerous occasions of HGT that are recorded in the genomes of all three domains of living organisms. HGT-mediated rapid evolution is especially noticeable among the Bacteria, which demonstrate formidable adaptability in the face of recent environmental changes imposed by human activities, such as the use of antibiotics, industrial contamination, and intensive agriculture. At the heart of the HGT-driven bacterial evolution and adaptation are highly sophisticated natural genetic engineering tools in the form of a variety of mobile genetic elements (MGEs). The main aim of this review is to give a brief account of the occurrence and diversity of MGEs in natural ecosystems and of the environmental factors that may affect MGE-mediated HGT.

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          Most cited references 297

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          Bacterial biofilms: from the natural environment to infectious diseases.

          Biofilms--matrix-enclosed microbial accretions that adhere to biological or non-biological surfaces--represent a significant and incompletely understood mode of growth for bacteria. Biofilm formation appears early in the fossil record (approximately 3.25 billion years ago) and is common throughout a diverse range of organisms in both the Archaea and Bacteria lineages, including the 'living fossils' in the most deeply dividing branches of the phylogenetic tree. It is evident that biofilm formation is an ancient and integral component of the prokaryotic life cycle, and is a key factor for survival in diverse environments. Recent advances show that biofilms are structurally complex, dynamic systems with attributes of both primordial multicellular organisms and multifaceted ecosystems. Biofilm formation represents a protected mode of growth that allows cells to survive in hostile environments and also disperse to colonize new niches. The implications of these survival and propagative mechanisms in the context of both the natural environment and infectious diseases are discussed in this review.
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            Lateral gene transfer and the nature of bacterial innovation.

            Unlike eukaryotes, which evolve principally through the modification of existing genetic information, bacteria have obtained a significant proportion of their genetic diversity through the acquisition of sequences from distantly related organisms. Horizontal gene transfer produces extremely dynamic genomes in which substantial amounts of DNA are introduced into and deleted from the chromosome. These lateral transfers have effectively changed the ecological and pathogenic character of bacterial species.
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              Antibiotic resistance of bacterial biofilms.

              A biofilm is a structured consortium of bacteria embedded in a self-produced polymer matrix consisting of polysaccharide, protein and DNA. Bacterial biofilms cause chronic infections because they show increased tolerance to antibiotics and disinfectant chemicals as well as resisting phagocytosis and other components of the body's defence system. The persistence of, for example, staphylococcal infections related to foreign bodies is due to biofilm formation. Likewise, chronic Pseudomonas aeruginosa lung infection in cystic fibrosis patients is caused by biofilm-growing mucoid strains. Characteristically, gradients of nutrients and oxygen exist from the top to the bottom of biofilms and these gradients are associated with decreased bacterial metabolic activity and increased doubling times of the bacterial cells; it is these more or less dormant cells that are responsible for some of the tolerance to antibiotics. Biofilm growth is associated with an increased level of mutations as well as with quorum-sensing-regulated mechanisms. Conventional resistance mechanisms such as chromosomal beta-lactamase, upregulated efflux pumps and mutations in antibiotic target molecules in bacteria also contribute to the survival of biofilms. Biofilms can be prevented by early aggressive antibiotic prophylaxis or therapy and they can be treated by chronic suppressive therapy. A promising strategy may be the use of enzymes that can dissolve the biofilm matrix (e.g. DNase and alginate lyase) as well as quorum-sensing inhibitors that increase biofilm susceptibility to antibiotics. (c) 2010 Elsevier B.V. and the International Society of Chemotherapy. All rights reserved.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Front Microbiol
                Front. Microbio.
                Frontiers in Microbiology
                Frontiers Research Foundation
                1664-302X
                23 May 2011
                26 July 2011
                2011
                : 2
                Affiliations
                1simpleRowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, University of Aberdeen Aberdeen, UK
                Author notes

                Edited by: Kornelia Smalla, Julius Kühn-Institut, Germany

                Reviewed by: Charles Knapp, University of Strathclyde, UK; Ed Topp, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Canada

                *Correspondence: Rustam I. Aminov, Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, College of Life Sciences and Medicine, University of Aberdeen, Greenburn Road, Aberdeen AB21 9SB, UK. e-mail: r.aminov@ 123456abdn.ac.uk

                This article was submitted to Frontiers in Antimicrobials, Resistance and Chemotherapy, a specialty of Frontiers in Microbiology.

                Article
                10.3389/fmicb.2011.00158
                3145257
                21845185
                Copyright © 2011 Aminov.

                This is an open-access article subject to a non-exclusive license between the authors and Frontiers Media SA, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and other Frontiers conditions are complied with.

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                Figures: 0, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 300, Pages: 19, Words: 21197
                Categories
                Microbiology
                Review Article

                Microbiology & Virology

                gut, aquatic ecosystems, soil, horizontal gene transfer, biofilm

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