"As Seen in GEN–Flashback" Volume 3, Number 2, March/April 1983
Bacterial Gene Is Expressed in Cultured Tobacco Cells
Scientists from three separate laboratories have reported the successful expression of a bacterial gene for antibiotic resistance in plant cells using the tumor-inducing (Ti) plasmid of the soil bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens as a gene vector.
Reports of the experiments hilighted the 15th Annual Miami Winer Symposium, held in January, which focused this year on agricultural applications of genetic engineering.
The Monsanto Co., in whose laboratory one of the successful experiments took place, emphasized the long-term significance of the achievement. Dr. Ernest Jaworski, the firm’s director of molecular biology, asserted that the technique eventually will be intended to enable researchers to improve crop plants by inserting useful genes into them in a manner allowing the plants to express them constitutively.
Principal researchers for Monsanto were Drs. Robert Horsch, Stephen Rogers and Robert T. Fraley. Their work took place more or less simultaneously with similar experiments done by Dr. Michael Bevan in the lab of a second Miami Symposium speaker. Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton of Washington University, St. Louis. (Dr. Chilton will leave the university shortly to join the research staff at Ciba-Geigy.) A third Symposium speaker, Dr. Jeff Schell, director of the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding, Cologne, West Germany, reported very similar experiments with two antibiotic resistance genes.
Dr. Chilton and Dr. Rogers, in interviews with GEN, emphasized that resistance to the antibiotic is not a particularly useful trait to the plant. The significance of the experiments, they said, is in its role as a model system.