Study show extracellular vesicles exchange genetic information between cells in the sea

Researchers led by Susanne Erdmann from the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen have looked at data that has so far been mostly discarded as contamination, revealing the previously underestimated role of extracellular vesicles (EVs) in exchanging genetic information between cells and highlighting their importance for the microbial community in the sea.


How often is that DNA actually taken up and incorporated by other prokaryotic cells? It is one thing to show a lot of extracellular vesicles contain pieces of DNA; it is another thing entirely to show this plays a major role in the actual cell-to-cell transmission of that DNA.

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That seems like a stretch, as people have been paying attention to exosomes for more than 10 years.

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I edited the title of the post to include the important phrase “in the sea” (which, to be fair to the writers of the institutional press release, was in the original post at Transfer of genetic information by EVs, between cells of many/most kinds, has been known for at least 15 years. This new study, reported in a small specialized journal, is indirectly about the extent of this phenomenon among marine microbes.

I think there is still significant controversy about the functional relevance of genetic stuff (especially microRNAs) that are transferred between cells via EVs. The new paper does not address this, though the authors claim to have “quantitative evidence suggesting that EV-mediated gene transfer plays a significant role in driving horizontal gene transfer (HGT) in the world’s oceans.” What they show is that there is a lot of non-viral DNA that is “protected” (and therefore likely to be enclosed in EVs) that is inferred to come from particular microbes.

So… IMO, even with “in the sea” added back, the title/headline is overstated. Caveat lector, especially when reading institutional press releases.


Anyone else initially read that as extracellular vehicles?

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I sometimes shorten long titles to save space on mobile devices. I don’t recall do doing that here, but I was about to board a plane and so was a little distracted. :sweat_smile:

I figured that by posting this, people who knew more about the current knowledge would chime in to fill the holes i suspected were there.

Thank you!

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