The genetic manipulation of plants is both, a subject of great controversy in Europe and a tactic already practiced by certain bacteria. The soil bacterium known as crown-gall bacterium (Agrobacterium) manipulates the genetic make-up of plants by inserting its own DNA into the nuclei and, consequently, into the genetic material of the plant cells. The genetically modified plants are then reprogrammed to ensure uninhibited cell division and produce nutrients to feed the bacteria. What was not previously understood is exactly how bacteria genes infiltrate the cell's nucleus – particularly as the defence mechanisms of plant cells react so rapidly to bacterial invasion.
The following model illustrates the early processes in an infected plant cell. The invasion of T-DNA and the identification of the bacterium as an invader occur simultaneously. While protein kinases phosphorylate VIP1 in the cytoplasm, the bacterial T-DNA adheres to VIP1, thereby enabling it to infiltrate the nucleus unnoticed. The result is the joint infiltration of both friend and foe. Once inside the nucleus, the T-DNA is inserted into the plant genome and the process of tumour formation begins while the activated defence genes simultaneously organise the plant cell's defence mechanisms. It is too late though – the cell has already been transformed.
Till C. Jelitto | alfa
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