Transfer of DNA from Bacteria to Eukaryotes.mBio. 2016 07 12; 7(4)MBIO
Historically, the members of the Agrobacterium genus have been considered the only bacterial species naturally able to transfer and integrate DNA into the genomes of their eukaryotic hosts. Yet, increasing evidence suggests that this ability to genetically transform eukaryotic host cells might be more widespread in the bacterial world. Indeed, analyses of accumulating genomic data reveal cases of horizontal gene transfer from bacteria to eukaryotes and suggest that it represents a significant force in adaptive evolution of eukaryotic species. Specifically, recent reports indicate that bacteria other than Agrobacterium, such as Bartonella henselae (a zoonotic pathogen), Rhizobium etli (a plant-symbiotic bacterium related to Agrobacterium), or even Escherichia coli, have the ability to genetically transform their host cells under laboratory conditions. This DNA transfer relies on type IV secretion systems (T4SSs), the molecular machines that transport macromolecules during conjugative plasmid transfer and also during transport of proteins and/or DNA to the eukaryotic recipient cells. In this review article, we explore the extent of possible transfer of genetic information from bacteria to eukaryotic cells as well as the evolutionary implications and potential applications of this transfer.