The genetics of bacteria is the study of the reproductive capabilities of bacteria and the mechanisms which they utilize to diversify their genetic composition. Similar to eukaryotic cells, bacterial cells are capable of retaining function and variation, which gets passed on through generations.
Despite the fact that the development of bacteria resistant strains is a major issue, bacteria actually do not have a high mutation rate. Rather, bacteria are capable of proliferating rapidly which allows them to increase genetic diversity, along with the effects of genetic recombination. Furthermore, bacteria do not reproduce by meiosis. Instead they use binary fission to replicate themselves, which is a form of asexual reproduction. Asexual reproduction is common of prokaryotic organisms.
Bacteria can alter their genetic information through transformation, transduction and conjugation.
- Transformation: Is a form of genetic information exchange with bacteria and it involves the uptake of free or naked DNA. DNA from the environment can be taken up by some bacterial strains.
- Transduction: This occurs when a bacteria’s DNA gets transferred by a virus to another bacterium. This is done by bacteriophages, which are known as viruses which infect bacteria. This does not require any physical contact between bacterial cells.
- Conjugation: Basically conjugation involves the transfer of a plasmid between two bacterium cells, the living donor and the recipient, through physical contact. The F+ bacterium is the donor which contains the F plasmid and the F- bacterium is the recipient which lacks a plasmid. Once the transfer is completed, the recipient becomes an F+ bacterium. This is the basics of conjugation, as it does get more complicated.
The genetics of bacteria is quite an interesting topic. Many of the discoveries in this area were made in the 1900s and through continued research further insight on bacterial genetics can be uncovered.
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