Many defense systems in microbial genomes, but which is defending whom from what?

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Eduardo P. C. Rocha, David Bikard


Prokaryotes have numerous mobile genetic elements (MGE) that mediate horizontal gene transfer between cells. These elements can be costly, even deadly, and cells use numerous defense systems to filter, control or inactivate them. Surprisingly, many phages, conjugative plasmids, and their parasites, phage satellites or mobilizable plasmids, encode defense systems homologous to those of bacteria. They constitute a significant fraction of the systems found in bacterial genomes. As components of MGEs, they have presumably evolved to provide them, not the cell, adaptive functions that may be defensive, offensive, or both. This sheds new light on the role, effect, and fate of the so called “cellular defense systems”, whereby they are not merely microbial defensive weapons in a two-partner arms race, but tools of intragenomic conflict between multiple genetic elements with divergent interests. It also raises many intriguing questions.



Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Evolution, Genetics and Genomics, Life Sciences, Microbiology, Other Microbiology



Published: 2021-09-18 04:38


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