Mobile DNAs as ecologically and evolutionarily independent units of life

Timothy M. Ghaly*, Michael R. Gillings

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Mobile DNAs drive the spread of virulence and antibiotic-resistance determinants across diverse bacterial lineages. However, they have been largely overlooked as therapeutic targets, limiting our ability to prevent the spread of their clinically relevant cargo genes. Mobile DNAs adopt various behavioural, evolutionary, and ecological strategies to enhance their diversification, transmission, and replicative fitness. They can do this even at the expense of their host bacterium. Here, we explore evidence that mobile DNAs are inherently selfish, and resemble endoparasites. Viewing them as such helps us to better understand their dynamics, and ultimately, could identify ways to limit their role in the spread of resistance. Shifting our therapeutic focus towards targeting the transmission of mobile DNAs could help us to manage the resistance crisis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)904-912
Number of pages9
JournalTrends in Microbiology
Issue number11
Early online date7 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


  • antibiotic resistance
  • biological individuality
  • evolution
  • lateral gene transfer
  • mobilome
  • parasitic DNA

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