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Gene transfer to plants by diverse species of bacteria


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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Figure 1: Binary vectors used for plant transformation.
Figure 2: Genotyping of gene transfer-competent bacterial strains.
Figure 3: Gene transfer to plants by diverse species of bacteria.


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This work was carried out within the Molecular Technologies Group of CAMBIA. We thank M. Irwin, J. Ward and H. Kilborn for their assistance with the plant transformation work. We thank P. Oger for sharing unpublished sequences of the pTiBo542 Ti plasmid, R. Wagner for comparisons of insertion sites with unpublished tobacco sequences, and M. Connett-Porceddu, P. Wenz and S. Hughes for discussions on the manuscript. This work was supported by grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, Horticulture Australia and Rural Industries R&D Corporation (RIRDC).

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Richard A. Jefferson.

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The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Table

Table S1 contains information on the primers used for PCR shown in Figure 2. (DOC 44 kb)

Supplementary Methods

This section describes the rice transformation protocol and includes a table (Table S2) detailing the composition of the tissue culture media used. (DOC 42 kb)

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Broothaerts, W., Mitchell, H., Weir, B. et al. Gene transfer to plants by diverse species of bacteria. Nature 433, 629–633 (2005).

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