On Uncommon Descent, Patrick has a post on a paper that probes the barriers to horizontal gene transfer. In the comments, a commenter named Bob O’H makes the case that less than 0.5% of genes were toxic. Patrick duly corrects the “mistake” that Bob O’H points out, as he should, and everything is right in the world. I think there’s a subtle argument to be made here, however.
Yes, only a small proportion of genes were toxic – the less than 0.5% figure is correct – but they were genes that were expressed. There were similar genes that could be transformed just fine, but that E. coli could not express. In other words, the only genes that could be transformed into E. coli were ones that it couldn’t use. This is not good news for HGT proponents, if all it can do is shuffle useless genes around.