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Stealing life's building blocks
Date:6/8/2012

rasite-host relationship was a hotbed of activity for horizontal gene transfer," Davis said. "But no one had tackled this question in a broad systematic way. Our paper was the first to hit this problem, and what we found was is gene transfer is indeed prevalent in these parasites, and that some of those genes are likely functional."

Davis' research didn't stop at the genes the flowers adopted from their host. In examining the vertically inherited genes of the parasite that is, those inherited from a parent they found that the molecular coding between the parasites were strikingly similar to those of its host. Put simply, he said, the flowers are "learning to speak the genetic language" of their hosts, and not simply acquiring their genes.

"What we think is that the genes in the parasite are independently converging on the genetic coding of the host," he said. "Of course, in this case it's more likely easier to acquire genes through horizontal gene transfer if your own genetic machinery is more like your host, but when we started to find these patterns, it amazed me. If true, it's a pretty diabolical strategy on the part of the parasite."


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Contact: Peter Reuell
preuell@fas.harvard.edu
617-496-8070
Harvard University
Source:Eurekalert

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