Parasitic Plants Improve As Parasites By Stealing & Adopting Host Genes

EnolaGaia

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It appears that parasitic plants can adapt to become even better parasites by absorbing and exploiting genes from their hosts (i.e., their victims). Such gene transfer is known in microbes, but this is the most dramatic functional example known in any more complex organism.

This discovery illustrates how plants aren't necessarily as passive as we like to think.

Parasitic plants use stolen genes to make them better parasites

Some parasitic plants steal genetic material from their host plants and use the stolen genes to more effectively siphon off the host's nutrients. A new study led by researchers at Penn State and Virginia Tech reveals that the parasitic plant dodder has stolen a large amount of genetic material from its hosts, including over 100 functional genes. These stolen genes contribute to dodder's ability to latch onto and steal nutrients from the host and even to send genetic weapons back into the host. The new study appears July 22, 2019, in the journal Nature Plants.

"Horizontal gene transfer, the movement of genetic material from one organism into the genome of another species, is very common in microbes and is a major way that bacteria can acquire antibiotic resistance," said Claude dePamphilis, professor of biology at Penn State and senior author of the study. "We don't see many examples of horizontal gene transfer in complex organisms like plants, and when we do see it, the transferred genetic material isn't generally used. In this study, we present the most dramatic case known of functional horizontal gene transfer ever found in complex organisms." ...
FULL STORY: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/07/190722182130.htm
 
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