a1 Écologie Microbienne, Université de Lyon, 69003 Lyon, Lyon I, 69622 Villeurbanne, France
a2 Institut des Sciences Végétales, CNRS UMR2235, Gif-sur-Yvette, France
a3 Environmental Microbial Genomics Group, Laboratoire Ampère, École Centrale de Lyon, 69134 Ecully, France
The likelihood of gene transfer from transgenic plants to bacteria is dependent on gene number and the presence of homologous sequences. The large number of transgene copies in transplastomic (transgenes contained in the chloroplast genome) plant cells as well as the prokaryotic origin of the transgene, may thus significantly increase the likelihood of gene transfer to bacteria that colonize plant tissues. In order to assess the probability of such transfer, the length of homologous DNA sequences required between the transgene and the genome of the bacterial host was assessed. In addition, the probability that bacteria, which co-infect diseased plants, are transformable and have sequences similar to the flanking regions of the transgene was evaluated. Using Acinetobacter baylyi strain BD143 and transplastomic tobacco plants harboring the aadA gene (streptomycin and spectinomycin resistance), we found that sequences identical to the flanking regions containing as few as 55 nucleotides were sufficient for recombination to occur. Consequently, a collection of bacterial isolates able to colonize tobacco plant tissue infected by Ralstonia solanacearum strain K60 was obtained, screened for DNA sequence similarity with the chloroplastic genes accD and rbcL flanking the transgene, and tested for their ability to uptake extracellular DNA (broad host-range pBBR1MCS plasmids) by natural or electro-transformation. Results showed that among the 288 bacterial isolates tested, 8% presented DNA sequence similarity with one or both chloroplastic regions flanking the transgene. Two isolates, identified as Pseudomonas sp. and Acinetobacter sp., were able to integrate exogenous plasmid DNA by electro-transformation and natural transformation, respectively. Our data suggest that transplastomic plant DNA recipients might be present in soil bacterial communities.
(Online publication October 26 2007)