October 16, 2019
Agrobacterium is a microbe that infects plants, inserting its DNA into the plant. Scientists have been using this ability of the bacterium to genetically engineer plants, but it turns out the bacteria have been doing it on their own long before science got involved.
Researchers from the Institute of Molecular Biology of Plants and St Petersburg State University have investigated the genomes of plants and discovered dozens show evidence of Agrobacterium DNA. It was previously thought that this foreign DNA was hardly ever passed between generations of plants, but this is not the case. Agrobacterium DNA was found in many crops such as bananas, tea, tobacco, hops and sweet potato.
These naturally ‘transgenic’ organisms may challenge the current concept of what genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are. While it is not yet clear what effect the bacterial DNA has on the plants, it is clear that Agrobacterium is present in around one in 20 flowering plants, which is far more prevalent than previously thought.
Source: New Scientist
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