What is horizontal gene transfer (HGT)?

Horizontal gene transfer (HGT), also known as lateral gene transfer, is a fascinating process that challenges the traditional view of inheritance. HGT refers to the movement of genetic material between organisms that are not parent and offspring. This means organisms can acquire genes from unrelated sources, expanding their genetic repertoire beyond what they inherit vertically from their ancestors.

What are the main features of horizontal gene transfer?

  • Mechanisms: HGT can occur through various mechanisms like conjugation (direct cell-to-cell contact), transduction (using viruses as vectors), and transformation (uptake of free DNA from the environment).
  • Frequency: HGT is more common in bacteria and archaea but can also occur between eukaryotes (organisms with a nucleus) under specific circumstances.
  • Impact: HGT can introduce new genes for beneficial traits like antibiotic resistance, novel metabolic pathways, or virulence factors.

Why is horizontal gene transfer important?

  • HGT is a major driver of evolution, allowing organisms to rapidly acquire new adaptations and capabilities.
  • It contributes significantly to the diversity of genes and functions within microbial communities.
  • Understanding HGT is crucial for studying antibiotic resistance and the evolution of pathogens.

What are applications of horizontal gene transfer in practice?

  • Understanding Microbial Communities: Studying HGT patterns helps elucidate how different microbes interact and share genes within ecosystems.
  • Developing New Therapeutics: Studying genes acquired through HGT can provide insights into novel drug targets for combating infectious diseases.
  • Biotechnology Applications: Scientists might utilize HGT mechanisms to introduce desirable genes into organisms for bioremediation or industrial applications (limited applications currently).

Practical example

  • Antibiotic resistance is a prime example of HGT's impact. Bacteria can acquire genes for resistance from other bacteria through plasmids (small circular DNA molecules) or transposons (mobile genetic elements). This allows them to survive antibiotic treatments previously effective.

Critical comments

  • Detecting HGT events can be challenging because it disrupts the typical evolutionary lineage.
  • The long-term consequences of horizontally acquired genes on the recipient organism are not always fully understood.
  • Ethical concerns exist regarding the deliberate use of HGT in genetically modified organisms.
Check page access:
Work for WorldSupporter


JoHo can really use your help!  Check out the various student jobs here that match your studies, improve your competencies, strengthen your CV and contribute to a more tolerant world

Working for JoHo as a student in Leyden

Parttime werken voor JoHo

Check more of this topic?
Check supporting content:
Summaries and Study Assistance - WorldSupporter Start
Check all content related to:
How to use more summaries?

Online access to all summaries, study notes en practice exams

Using and finding summaries, study notes en practice exams on JoHo WorldSupporter

There are several ways to navigate the large amount of summaries, study notes en practice exams on JoHo WorldSupporter.

  1. Starting Pages: for some fields of study and some university curricula editors have created (start) magazines where customised selections of summaries are put together to smoothen navigation. When you have found a magazine of your likings, add that page to your favorites so you can easily go to that starting point directly from your profile during future visits. Below you will find some start magazines per field of study
  2. Use the menu above every page to go to one of the main starting pages
  3. Tags & Taxonomy: gives you insight in the amount of summaries that are tagged by authors on specific subjects. This type of navigation can help find summaries that you could have missed when just using the search tools. Tags are organised per field of study and per study institution. Note: not all content is tagged thoroughly, so when this approach doesn't give the results you were looking for, please check the search tool as back up
  4. Follow authors or (study) organizations: by following individual users, authors and your study organizations you are likely to discover more relevant study materials.
  5. Search tool : 'quick & dirty'- not very elegant but the fastest way to find a specific summary of a book or study assistance with a specific course or subject. The search tool is also available at the bottom of most pages

Do you want to share your summaries with JoHo WorldSupporter and its visitors?

Quicklinks to fields of study (main tags and taxonomy terms)

Field of study

Access level of this page
  • Public
  • WorldSupporters only
  • JoHo members
  • Private
Comments, Compliments & Kudos:

Add new contribution

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

JoHo kan jouw hulp goed gebruiken! Check hier de diverse studentenbanen die aansluiten bij je studie, je competenties verbeteren, je cv versterken en een bijdrage leveren aan een tolerantere wereld