Incorporation of a horizontally transferred gene into an operon during cnidarian evolution

Catherine E. Dana, University of California, Irvine
Kristine M. Glauber, University of California, Irvine
Titus A. Chan, University of California, Irvine
Diane M. Bridge, Elizabethtown College
Robert E. Steele, University of California, Irvine


Genome sequencing has revealed examples of horizontally transferred genes, but we still know little about how such genes are incorporated into their host genomes. We have previously reported the identification of a gene (flp) that appears to have entered the Hydra genome through horizontal transfer. Here we provide additional evidence in support of our original hypothesis that the transfer was from a unicellular organism, and we show that the transfer occurred in an ancestor of two medusozoan cnidarian species. In addition we show that the gene is part of a bicistronic operon in the Hydra genome. These findings identify a new animal phylum in which trans-spliced leader addition has led to the formation of operons, and define the requirements for evolution of an operon in Hydra. The identification of operons in Hydra also provides a tool that can be exploited in the construction of transgenic Hydra strains. © 2012 Dana et al.