Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is the movement of genetic material between organisms. It plays a key role in bacterial evolution and is the primary mechanism by which bacteria have gained antibiotic resistance and virulence. Scientists have studied how HGT occurs in nature and have learned how to introduce genetic materials into cells in the lab.
The introduction of foreign DNA or RNA into bacteria or eukaryotic cells is a common technique in molecular biology and scientific research. There are multiple ways foreign DNA can be introduced into cells including transformation, transduction, conjugation, and transfection. Transformation, transduction, and conjugation occur in nature as forms of HGT, but transfection is unique to the lab. Let’s take a look at these different methods of DNA insertion.