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Researchers Sequence Bacterium Capable of Transferring DNA to Plant Cells

NEW YORK, Aug 15 – Scientists at Monsanto and researchers at the University of Richmond, Virginia, have released the genome sequence for Agrobacterium tumefaciens , a bacterium that transfers DNA to plant cells.

"Agrobacterium tumefaciens is one of the most important tools for plant biotechnology," Steve Slater, a scientist of Cereon Genomics, a subsidiary of Monsanto, said in a statement released Tuesday.

"Our understanding of this bacterium and its natural ability to stably insert genes into plants has allowed the development of many of the crops enhanced through biotechnology that farmers are growing today,” Slater said. 

The researchers said that A. tumefaciens  was also interesting from an evolutionary perspective given the organism’s circular bacterial chromosome and linear chromosome.

“This structure appears unique to a small group of bacteria that are closely related to Agrobacterium ," said Slater. 

The DNA sequence for A. tumefaciens  strain C58, which includes two plasmids and two chromosomes, will be made available to the public though the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s GenBank database at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

The study of Agrobacterium  began early last century, when scientists implicated it as the cause of crown gall, a plant disease. Several decades later researchers learned that the bacterium was actually transferring its own DNA into the plant's DNA and introducing new genes that cause crown gall.

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