Letters to Nature

Nature 433, 629-633 (10 February 2005) | doi:10.1038/nature03309; Received 26 November 2004; Accepted 29 December 2004

Gene transfer to plants by diverse species of bacteria

Wim Broothaerts1,2,3, Heidi J. Mitchell1,3, Brian Weir1,3, Sarah Kaines1,2,3, Leon M. A. Smith1, Wei Yang1, Jorge E. Mayer1,2,3, Carolina Roa-Rodríguez1,2,3 & Richard A. Jefferson1

  1. CAMBIA (An Affiliated Research Centre of Charles Sturt University), G.P.O. Box 3200, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia
  2. Present addresses: European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Reference Materials and Measurement, Retieseweg 111, B-2440 Geel, Belgium (W.B.); Research School of Biological Sciences, Australian National University, ACT 2601, Australia (S.K.); Campus Technologies Freiburg, University of Freiburg, Stefan Meier Str. 8, Freiburg D-79104, Germany (J.E.M.); RegNet, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University, ACT 2601, Australia (C.R.-R.)
  3. These authors contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to: Richard A. Jefferson1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to R.A.J. (Email: r.jefferson@cambia.org).

Agrobacterium is widely considered to be the only bacterial genus capable of transferring genes to plants. When suitably modified, Agrobacterium has become the most effective vector for gene transfer in plant biotechnology1. However, the complexity of the patent landscape2 has created both real and perceived obstacles to the effective use of this technology for agricultural improvements by many public and private organizations worldwide. Here we show that several species of bacteria outside the Agrobacterium genus can be modified to mediate gene transfer to a number of diverse plants. These plant-associated symbiotic bacteria were made competent for gene transfer by acquisition of both a disarmed Ti plasmid and a suitable binary vector. This alternative to Agrobacterium-mediated technology for crop improvement, in addition to affording a versatile 'open source' platform for plant biotechnology, may lead to new uses of natural bacteria–plant interactions to achieve plant transformation.

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