Describe how horizontal gene transfer can affect the population structure of bacteria and give example of how horizontal gene transfer can mislead the interpretation of a phylogenetic tree? Horizontal Gene Transfer: Effects on Population Structure and Misleading Phylogenetic Trees

Horizontal Gene Transfer: Effects on Population Structure and Misleading Phylogenetic Trees

 

 
Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is a mechanism by which genetic material is exchanged between organisms without the need for reproduction. This process has long been a source of fascination for biologists, as it has the potential to dramatically alter the evolutionary trajectory of organisms, including bacteria. HGT can affect the population structure of bacterial populations by introducing new genes and genetic pathways, enabling the population to adapt to different environments, and by causing changes in the frequency of shared alleles between individuals. For example, one study found that HGT caused a decrease in the genetic diversity of a population of the bacterium Acinetobacter baylyi (Ullah et al., 2020). HGT can also mislead the interpretation of a phylogenetic tree, which is used to trace the evolutionary history of an organism. When HGT occurs, the structure of the tree may be affected as the genes transferred may not be related to the other members of the population. This can lead to the misclassification of individuals and to the incorrect interpretation of the tree (McLaughin et al., 2016). Cont….
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