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Letters to Nature
Nature 325, 177 - 179 (08 January 1987); doi:10.1038/325177a0

Agrobacterium-mediated delivery of infectious maize streak virus into maize plants

Nigel Grimsley*, Thomas Hohn*, Jeffrey W. Davies & Barbara Hohn*

*Friedrich Miescher-Institut, PO Box 2543, CH-4002 Basel, Switzerland
John Innes Institute, Colney Lane, Norwich NR4 7UH, UK

Cells of certain strains of Agrobacterium colonize plants by transferring a portion of their DNA (the T-DNA) into a host plant cell, so causing it to proliferate and produce substances (opines) which the bacteria can use as food1. Most dicotyledonous plants can act as hosts, but most monocotyledonous species (including the economically important gramineae) are thought not to be susceptible2. We have used agroinfection (Agrobacterium-mediated virus infection3) as a very sensitive assay to test whether DNA transfer at least occurs during Agrobacterium inoculations of maize, a graminaceous plant. Naked DNA of the geminivirus maize streak virus (MSV) is not infectious to plants by itself and the intact virus can only infect if transmitted by an insect vector4. We report here that whole maize plants develop symptoms of viral infection if inoculated with strains of Agrobacterium carrying tandemly repeated copies of MSV genomes in their T-DNA. Mutant Agrobacterium strains defective in transfer of T-DNA cannot transmit MSV DNA in this test. We conclude that cloned MSV DNA is biologically active and that Agrobacterium can transfer DNA to maize.

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