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Front Microbiol. 2014 Aug 7;5:340. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2014.00340. eCollection 2014.

Historical account on gaining insights on the mechanism of crown gall tumorigenesis induced by Agrobacterium tumefaciens.

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Davis Crown Gall Group, Department of Plant Pathology, University of California, Davis Davis, CA, USA.


The plant tumor disease known as crown gall was not called by that name until more recent times. Galls on plants were described by Malpighi (1679) who believed that these extraordinary growth are spontaneously produced. Agrobacterium was first isolated from tumors in 1897 by Fridiano Cavara in Napoli, Italy. After this bacterium was recognized to be the cause of crown gall disease, questions were raised on the mechanism by which it caused tumors on a variety of plants. Numerous very detailed studies led to the identification of Agrobacterium tumefaciens as the causal bacterium that cleverly transferred a genetic principle to plant host cells and integrated it into their chromosomes. Such studies have led to a variety of sophisticated mechanisms used by this organism to aid in its survival against competing microorganisms. Knowledge gained from these fundamental discoveries has opened many avenues for researchers to examine their primary organisms of study for similar mechanisms of pathogenesis in both plants and animals. These discoveries also advanced the genetic engineering of domesticated plants for improved food and fiber.


Agrobacterium; T pilus; T-DNA; Ti plasmid; conjugative transfer; opines; type IV secretion system; type VI secretion system

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