Horizontal gene transfers with or without cell fusions in all categories of the living matter.
Adv Exp Med Biol. 2011 ;714:5-89. PMID: 21506007
St. Joseph Hospital's Cancer Institute Affiliated with the H. Lee Moffitt Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA. Sinkovi.Joseph@baycare.org
This article reviews the history of widespread exchanges of genetic segments initiated over 3 billion years ago, to be part of their life style, by sphero-protoplastic cells, the ancestors of archaea, prokaryota, and eukaryota. These primordial cells shared a hostile anaerobic and overheated environment and competed for survival. "Coexist with, or subdue and conquer, expropriate its most useful possessions, or symbiose with it, your competitor" remain cellular life's basic rules. This author emphasizes the role of viruses, both in mediating cell fusions, such as the formation of the first eukaryotic cell(s) from a united crenarchaeon and prokaryota, and the transfer of host cell genes integrated into viral (phages) genomes. After rising above the Darwinian threshold, rigid rules of speciation and vertical inheritance in the three domains of life were established, but horizontal gene transfers with or without cell fusions were never abolished. The author proves with extensive, yet highly selective documentation, that not only unicellular microorganisms, but the most complex multicellular entities of the highest ranks resort to, and practice, cell fusions, and donate and accept horizontally (laterally) transferred genes. Cell fusions and horizontally exchanged genetic materials remain the fundamental attributes and inherent characteristics of the living matter, whether occurring accidentally or sought after intentionally. These events occur to cells stagnating for some 3 milliard years at a lower yet amazingly sophisticated level of evolution, and to cells achieving the highest degree of differentiation, and thus functioning in dependence on the support of a most advanced multicellular host, like those of the human brain. No living cell is completely exempt from gene drains or gene insertions.