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Sea Slugs Steal Genes From Algae
Posted by: Panchito ()
Date: February 05, 2015 03:10AM



Confirmation That Photosynthesizing Sea Slugs Steal Genes From Algae

For decades, scientists have puzzled over how a certain sea slug acquires the ability to photosynthesize after ingesting algae. An advanced imaging technique now confirms that the slugs are literally stealing genes from the algae. It's considered the first example of "horizontal gene transfer" in a multicellular organism.

Researcher Sidney Pierce and colleagues have shown that the horizontal gene transfer of functional nuclear genes — which code for both chloroplast proteins and chlorophyll synthesis — from the ingested remains of the alga V. litorea is what's enabling the sea slug, E. chlorotica, to engage in photosynthesis. The process is aptly named "kleptoplasty."

It's considered the first direct evidence that the emerald green sea slug's chromosomes acquired some "functional" genes from the algae. What's more, it's an extremely rare — if not the only known — example of functional gene transfer from one multicellular species to another.

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