Genetic+escape+pods+-+The+Scientist+-+Magazine+of+the+Life+Sciences

Genetic+escape+pods+-+The+Scientist+-+Magazine+of+the+Life+Sciences

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10/1/10 9:44 AM Genetic escape pods - The Scientist - Magazine of the Life Sciences Page 1 of 3 http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/57732/ Some GTAs resemble viruses that infect bacteria such as Lambda phage Image:Flickr/ACJ1 2 comments Comment on this news story By Cristina Luiggi Genetic escape pods Microbes share and preserve their genetic material by releasing bodies that resemble viruses into the environment [Published 1st October 2010 02:49 PM GMT] Packaging random snippets of DNA into virus-like capsules known as gene transfer agents, or GTAs, may be a key way for marine bacteria to exchange genetic information, a new paper in Science suggests. While this gene-swapping mechanism has been known for decades, the extent to which GTAs were relevant to microbes in the real world was unclear, having been observed in a limited number of species and almost exclusively inside microbiology labs. But a team of researchers, headed by University of South Florida marine microbiologist John Paul, demonstrated that GTAs isolated from lab-grown bacteria conferred antibiotic resistance to a wide range of microbes naturally growing in the warm waters of the Gulf Coast, and at a much higher rate than expected. "This could represent a paradigm shift in how we view gene transfer in nature," said Thaddeus Stanton, a microbiologist at the US Department of Agriculture who was not involved in the study. "They've elevated the status of GTAs from laboratory anomalies or curiosities, to what I think are major players in microbial ecology and evolution." GTAs were first discovered in 1974 in the photosynthetic bacterium, Rhodobacter capsulatus , and immediately presented a puzzle to researchers: While they resembled bacteria-infecting viruses from the
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Genetic+escape+pods+-+The+Scientist+-+Magazine+of+the+Life+Sciences

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