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Science. 2009 May 1;324(5927):649-51. doi: 10.1126/science.1170397.

Exchange of genetic material between cells in plant tissue grafts.

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  • 1Max-Planck-Institut für Molekulare Pflanzenphysiologie, Am Mühlenberg 1, D-14476 Potsdam-Golm, Germany.


Tissue grafting includes applications ranging from plant breeding to animal organ transplantation. Donor and recipient are generally believed to maintain their genetic integrity, in that the grafted tissues are joined but their genetic materials do not mix. We grafted tobacco plants from two transgenic lines carrying different marker and reporter genes in different cellular compartments, the nucleus and the plastid. Analysis of the graft sites revealed the frequent occurrence of cells harboring both antibiotic resistances and both fluorescent reporters. Our data demonstrate that plant grafting can result in the exchange of genetic information via either large DNA pieces or entire plastid genomes. This observation of novel combinations of genetic material has implications for grafting techniques and also provides a possible path for horizontal gene transfer.

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