Discovery of integrons in Archaea: platforms for cross-domain gene transfer

Timothy M. Ghaly, Sasha G. Tetu, Anahit Penesyan, Qin Qi, Vaheesan Rajabal, Michael R. Gillings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Horizontal gene transfer between different domains of life is increasingly being recognized as an important evolutionary driver, with the potential to increase the pace of biochemical innovation and environmental adaptation. However, the mechanisms underlying the recruitment of exogenous genes from foreign domains are mostly unknown. Integrons are a family of genetic elements that facilitate this process within Bacteria. However, they have not been reported outside Bacteria, and thus their potential role in cross-domain gene transfer has not been investigated. Here, we discover that integrons are also present in 75 archaeal metagenome-assembled genomes from nine phyla, and are particularly enriched among Asgard archaea. Furthermore, we provide experimental evidence that integrons can facilitate the recruitment of archaeal genes by bacteria. Our findings establish a previously unknown mechanism of cross-domain gene transfer whereby bacteria can incorporate archaeal genes from their surrounding environment via integron activity. These findings have important implications for prokaryotic ecology and evolution.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalScience Advances
Issue number46
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2022


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