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Abstract

Natural competence for transformation is a primary mode of horizontal gene transfer. Competent bacteria are able to absorb free DNA from their surroundings and exchange this DNA against pieces of their own genome when sufficiently homologous. However, the prevalence of non-degraded DNA with sufficient coding capacity is not well understood. In this context, we previously showed that naturally competent Vibrio cholerae use their type VI secretion system (T6SS) to actively acquire DNA from non-kin neighbors. Here, we explored the conditions of the DNA released through T6SS-mediated killing versus passive cell lysis and the extent of the transfers that occur due to these conditions. We show that competent V. cholerae acquire DNA fragments with a length exceeding 150 kbp in a T6SS-dependent manner. Collectively, our data support the notion that the environmental lifestyle of V. cholerae fosters the exchange of genetic material with sufficient coding capacity to significantly accelerate bacterial evolution.

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