Briefly describe each of the following ways in which bacteria acquire genetic information: lysogenic conversion, transduction, transformation, conjugation
Bacteria reproduce through binary fusion, a process where the parent cell splits into two to produce two genetically identical copies. However, bacteria are also able to acquire new genetic information to create other bacteria with the ability to adapt and survive in their environment. There are four mechanisms in which bacterial acquire further genetic information; lysogenic conversion, transduction, transformation, and conjugation
lysogenic conversion occurs when the bacteria cells become infected with a temperate bacteriophage resulting in a change in the genetic composition. The newly integrated DNA is referred to as the prophage. However, the changes in the genetic properties only last as long as the phage prophage exists within the cell. The loss of the prophage results in the immediate loss of the genetic properties. Lysogenic conversion is common in several strains of the diphtheria bacillus. The integration of the phage into the cell results in the formation of diphtheria causative agents.
Transduction occurs when viruses or the bacteriophages introduce or transfers fragments of DNA or RNA into the bacteria. Like other viruses, bacteriophage takes up the cell’s resources and uses them to create more bacteriophages. The bacteriophage acts as infectious agents by accidentally grabbing pieces of the bacterial DNA and depositing them into the subsequent bacterial cells.
Transformation is the process by which bacterial cells acquire genetic materials from the immediate surroundings. In a natural environment, the DNA material is often deposited by the bacterial cells, while in the lab, they are artificially introduced by the scientists. If the genetic material comes from a nearby lysed bacteria, it results in the circular plasmid DNA, which is absorbed by the receiving cell and passed to the adjacent bacterial cells.
During conjugation, genetic materials are transferred from one bacterial cell to another. Most of the time, the genetic material being transferred is the form of a plasmid, which makes it easier to move from the donor cells to the recipient. The donor cells contain a DNA sequence called the fertility factor or the f-factor, which has the ability to self-replicate. It also contains a special site known as the sex pilus that attaches to the recipient cells enabling the transfer of the genetic material. Ones the recipient cells have acquired the f factor, it becomes the f donor, develops a pilus, and can transfer DNA to the neighboring recipient cells.
The reproduction process in bacteria is a rapid process that takes very few minutes. This means that bacteria can evolve very quickly. Genetic variation, especially through transduction, is the major cause of antibiotic resistance. Some of the bacterial strains become resistant to antibiotics, which makes it difficult to eliminate.