When two plants are grafted together, they share much more than water and minerals: They also swap genetic material, according to a linkurl:study;http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/324/5927/649 published in tomorrow's (May 1) issue of __Science__. These findings muddy the distinction between naturally-occurring gene transfer in plants and the human-mediated mechanisms we generally refer to as genetic engineering.
Ever since Soviet and Western scientists in the 1960s denounced linkurl:Trofim Lysenko;http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trofim_Lysenko -- the infamous Stalinist agronomist who rejected Mendelian genetics and maintained that heredity can be changed by grafting and other non-genetic techniques -- the prevailing dogma has been that genetic materials do not mix at grafting junctions. But linkurl:Ralph Bock;http://www.maxplanck.de/cgi-bin/mpg.de/person.cgi?nav=kontakt&persId=21103251〈=en&inst=molek_pflanzenphysiologie and Sandra Stegemann of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam, Germany, weren't convinced. In linkurl:2003,;http://www.pnas.org/content/100/15/8828.abstract?ijkey=45a0eebd36a52f3b2a882a8c78deeaf2696d27e7&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha they showed that genes are transferred at a high frequency from chloroplasts to the nucleus within tobacco plants, suggesting that genetic material might be...
Interested in reading more?
Become a Member of
Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!