Lateral gene transfer (LGT) is the process by which prokaryotes acquire DNA across wide taxonomic boundaries and incorporate it into their genome. Accumulating evidence shows that LGT, a distinctly non tree-like evolutionary process, plays a major role in prokaryote evolution.

Virtually all prokaryotic gene families have been affected by LGT and only few gene families are resistant to it. The biological and evolutionary significance of lateral gene transfer has broad implications for our understanding of microbial biology, not only in terms of evolution, but also in terms of human health: both the emergence of antibiotic resistance and the emergence of novel infectious diseases themselves often results from bacterial virulence mechanisms that can be newly acquired, for example in the form of pathogenicity islands, via LGT.

Our aim for this SMBE satellite meeting is to bring together scientists working in the fields of molecular evolution, microbial ecology, and networks research in order to further develop the application of network models to the study of microbial genome evolution. We expect that a multidisciplinary joint meeting of scientists in those fields will add substance and progress to the study of reticulated (non tree-like) events during evolution.