The Transduction

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This flowchart illustrates the mechanism of specialized transduction. An integrated phage excises, bringing with it a piece of the DNA adjacent to its insertion point. On reinfection of a new bacterium, the phage DNA integrates along with the genetic material acquired from the previous host.

Source: OpenStax Microbiology

OpenStax Microbiology

Transduction occurs when a bacteriophage transfers bacterial DNA from one bacterium to another during sequential infections. There are two types of transduction: generalized and specialized transduction. During the lytic cycle of viral replication, the virus hijacks the host cell, degrades the host chromosome, and makes more viral genomes. As it assembles and packages DNA into the phage head, packaging occasionally makes a mistake. Instead of packaging viral DNA, it takes a random piece of host DNA and inserts it into the capsid. Once released, this virion will then inject the former host’s DNA into a newly infected host. The asexual transfer of genetic information can allow for DNA recombination to occur, thus providing the new host with new genes (e.g., an antibiotic-resistance gene, or a sugar-metabolizing gene). Generalized transduction occurs when a random piece of bacterial chromosomal DNA is transferred by the phage during the lytic cycle. Specialized transduction occurs at the end of the lysogenic cycle, when the prophage is excised and the bacteriophage enters the lytic cycle. Since the phage is integrated into the host genome, the prophage can replicate as part of the host. However, some conditions (e.g., ultraviolet light exposure or chemical exposure) stimulate the prophage to undergo induction, causing the phage to excise from the genome, enter the lytic cycle, and produce new phages to leave host cells. During the process of excision from the host chromosome, a phage may occasionally remove some bacterial DNA near the site of viral integration. The phage and host DNA from one end or both ends of the integration site are packaged within the capsid and are transferred to the new, infected host. Since the DNA transferred by the phage is not randomly packaged but is instead a specific piece of DNA near the site of integration, this mechanism of gene transfer is referred to as specialized transduction. The DNA can then recombine with host chromosome, giving the latter new characteristics. Transduction seems to play an important role in the evolutionary process of bacteria, giving them a mechanism for asexual exchange of genetic information.


Parker, N., Schneegurt, M., Thi Tu, A.-H., Forster, B. M., & Lister, P. (n.d.). Microbiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: