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Animal -> bacterial gene transfer seems easier than bacteria -> animal (rotifers are an interesting exception); there are bacteria live in close contact to us but our germ-line cells are protected. Given enough time, even free-living bacteria would start to pick up some of our genes (once the introns were lost).

Is this true? If so, do we see animal/plant genes gradually spreading into single cell organisms as time goes on (although "seeing" this would be difficult)? Is this effect "significant" for evolution in microbes?

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This paper seems relevant. I just found it and don't have access, so I haven't read it. It does seem to suggest that there is evidence for eukaryotic genes being taken up by a prokaryote.

I would imagine this is rare, though. Eukaryotic cells don't tend to just spew their genetic material everywhere. Most death pathways involve breaking down any genetic material in the cell, I believe.

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  • $\begingroup$ But prokaryotic cells infect Eukaryotes and then can leave and go on. During the infection DNA can be transferred. $\endgroup$ – Kevin Kostlan Feb 24 '14 at 0:14
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe, but this is the only example I found searching the literature. If you find more evidence, feel free to link. $\endgroup$ – stords Feb 24 '14 at 1:14
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This sea slug is one example of prokaryotic genes ending up in an animal. The slug ingests chloroplasts from algae and incorporates them into its own cytoplasm. It has also acquired, presumably through horizontal gene transfer, some or all of those genes necessary to maintain the chloroplast. While this is not a gene transfer from a free-living prokaryote, chloroplasts are essentially cyanobacteria.

For the paper (PDF), see here.

Also see a more general review here (free full text).

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  • $\begingroup$ If we're allowing gene transfer from endosymbionts to their host, then human cells are an example. Almost all of the mitochondrial proteins are coded for in the nucleus. $\endgroup$ – stords Feb 24 '14 at 1:17
  • $\begingroup$ This isn't your typical case though. Also see second review. $\endgroup$ – Chinmay Kanchi Feb 24 '14 at 8:32

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