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Insect Genomes Reveal Rampant Horizontal Gene Transfer

Investigators at Zhejiang University and other centers in China and the US track horizontal gene transfer (HGT) in insects for a paper appearing in Cell. Using high-quality genome sequences for 218 insects, the team tracked down 741 apparent transfer events involving more than 1,400 genes, including adaptation-related genes in the HGT-rich genomes of lepidopteran species such as moths and butterflies. In their CRISPR-Cas9-based gene editing experiments, for example, the authors detected a decline in courtship by male diamondback moths missing a HGT-acquired gene known as LOC105383139. These and other findings from the study "provide a resource of HGT-acquired genes in insects," they explain. "This resource will enable users to study the functions of these foreign genes not only in our examined species but also in other insects."