Naturally Transgenic Bacteria

From Science Daily:

Researchers at Texas A&M University’s Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering have discovered how certain types of bacteria integrate the DNA that they have captured from invading enemies into their own genetic makeup to increase their chances of survival.


Examining E. coli bacteria, Wood found that the bacteria developed a means of not allowing the phage to replicate and leave the cell of its own volition. Once the phage was effectively “captured,” the bacteria incorporated the phage’s DNA material into its own chromosomes. This new diverse blend of genetic material, Wood says, has helped the bacteria not only overcome the phage but also flourish at a greater rate than similar bacteria that have not incorporated the phage DNA.


This distinct advantage is helping scientists understand why bacteria carry about 10-20 percent of genes that aren’t their own. Simply put, carrying the virus DNA allows bacteria to increase their chances of survival by producing diverse progeny – something Wood says is extremely important when the bacteria choose to move to a new environment through a process known as dispersal.

Dispersal occurs, Woods says, when the bacterium can no longer glean the nutrients it needs from its surroundings or when other environmental conditions, such as temperature, have become unfavorable. Wood found that through an elaborate regulation method, the bacteria are able to retain the virus DNA or expel it. It’s an interesting trade off, as retaining the virus DNA helps the bacteria grow faster but reduces its motility, which is needed when seeking out new environments, Wood explains.


Remarkable. These bacteria are GMOs (genetically modified organisms); more specifically, they are transgenic organisms. However, they have achieved these modifications using endogenous (internally-supplied) DNA modification processes, rather than through the exogenous means of tedious laboratory manipulation.

Question: Are endogenously produced transgenic organisms inherently any more or less dangerous than exogenously produced transgenic organisms?

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