Horizontal Gene Transfer in Obligate Parasites

  • J. M. AgeitosEmail author
  • M. Viñas
  • T. G. Villa


Parasitism entails a tight interaction between host, parasites, and the host’s commensal organisms; this derives into a coevolution process that in turn represents an extreme parasite specialization, associated with reductive evolution and streamlining. Horizontal gene transfer (HGT), as the asexual transfer of genetic material between or among distantly related species, may play an important role in host-parasite relations. HGT is especially important in the prokaryotic genome evolution; however, HGT is also present in eukaryotic genomes, for instance, the exchange of genetic sequences with organelles, endosymbiotic microorganisms, or even parasite genomes, and the host nucleus. Although parasitic symbiosis is classically defined as an arms race between host defenses and parasites, it has been identified the expression of exogenous parasitic genes in the host that provide selective advantages. Notwithstanding, the main part of HGT events in parasites takes place between them and commensal organisms, enabling selective advantages for the parasites. In this chapter, we will discuss some interesting cases of HGT in parasites that affect and belong to different kingdoms and the importance of this process in host-parasite coevolution.


Horizontal gene transfer Obligate parasites Wolbachia Chlamydia Microsporidia Parasitic plants 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Microbiology, Faculty of PharmacyUniversity of Santiago de CompostelaSantiago de CompostelaSpain
  2. 2.Department of Pathology and Experimental Therapeutics, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Faculty of Pharmacy, Department of MicrobiologyUniversity of Santiago de CompostelaSantiago de CompostelaSpain

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