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The impact of horizontal gene transfer on the adaptive ability of the human oral microbiome.


The oral microbiome is composed of a multitude of different species of bacteria, each capable of occupying one or more of the many different niches found within the human oral cavity. This community exhibits many types of complex interactions which enable it to colonize and rapidly respond to changes in the environment in which they live. One of these interactions is the transfer, or acquisition, of DNA within this environment, either from co-resident bacterial species or from exogenous sources. Horizontal gene transfer in the oral cavity gives some of the resident bacteria the opportunity to sample a truly enormous metagenome affording them considerable adaptive potential which may be key to survival in such a varying environment. In this review the underlying mechanisms of HGT are discussed in relation to the oral microbiome with numerous examples described where the direct acquisition of exogenous DNA has contributed to the fitness of the bacterial host within the human oral cavity.