Horizontal gene transfer from a flowering plant to the insular pine Pinus canariensis (Chr. Sm. Ex DC in Buch). uri icon


  • Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is viewed as very common in the plant mitochondrial (mt) genome, but, to date, only one case of HGT has been found in gymnosperms. Here we report a new case of HGT, in which a mt nad5-1 fragment was transferred from an angiosperm to Pinus canariensis. Quantitative assay and sequence analyses showed that the foreign nad5-1 is located in the mt genome of P. canariensis and is nonfunctional. An extensive survey in the genus Pinus revealed that the angiosperm-derived nad5-1 is restricted to P. canariensis and present across the species' range. Molecular dating based on chloroplast DNA suggested that the HGT event occurred in the late Miocene after P. canariensis split from its closest relatives, and that the foreign copy became fixed in P. canariensis owing to drift during its colonization of the Canary Islands. The mechanism of this HGT is unclear but it was probably achieved through either direct cell-cell contact or external vectors. Our discovery provides evidence for an important role of HGT in plant mt genome evolution.

publication date

  • 2015
  • 2015

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