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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Feb 13;98(4):1871-6. Epub 2001 Jan 30.

Genetic transformation of HeLa cells by Agrobacterium.

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Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, State University of New York, Stony Brook, NY 11794-5215, USA.


Agrobacterium tumefaciens is a soil phytopathogen that elicits neoplastic growths on the host plant species. In nature, however, Agrobacterium also may encounter organisms belonging to other kingdoms such as insects and animals that feed on the infected plants. Can Agrobacterium, then, also infect animal cells? Here, we report that Agrobacterium attaches to and genetically transforms several types of human cells. In stably transformed HeLa cells, the integration event occurred at the right border of the tumor-inducing plasmid's transferred-DNA (T-DNA), suggesting bona fide T-DNA transfer and lending support to the notion that Agrobacterium transforms human cells by a mechanism similar to that which it uses for transformation of plants cells. Collectively, our results suggest that Agrobacterium can transport its T-DNA to human cells and integrate it into their genome.

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