Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is a fast-track mechanism that allows genetically unrelated organisms to exchange genes for rapid environmental adaptation. We developed a new phyletic distribution-based software, HGT-Finder, which implements a novel bioinformatics algorithm to calculate a horizontal transfer index and a probability value for each query gene. Applying this new tool to the Aspergillus fumigatus
, Aspergillus flavus
, and Aspergillus nidulans
genomes, we found 273, 542, and 715 transferred genes (HTGs), respectively. HTGs have shorter length, higher guanine-cytosine (GC) content, and relaxed selection pressure. Metabolic process and secondary metabolism functions are significantly enriched in HTGs. Gene clustering analysis showed that 61%, 41% and 74% of HTGs in the three genomes form physically linked gene clusters (HTGCs). Overlapping manually curated, secondary metabolite gene clusters (SMGCs) with HTGCs found that 9 of the 33 A. fumigatus
SMGCs and 31 of the 65 A. nidulans
SMGCs share genes with HTGCs, and that HTGs are significantly enriched in SMGCs. Our genome-wide analysis thus presented very strong evidence to support the hypothesis that HGT has played a very critical role in the evolution of SMGCs. The program is freely available at http://cys.bios.niu.edu/HGTFinder/ HGTFinder.tar.gz.
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