Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, lnstitute of Cell and Developmental Biology, State University of New York, Stony Brook, New York 11794-5215 INTRODUCTION Agrobacterium fumefaciens (Agrobacterium) is a soil phytopathogen that genetically transforms host cells, causing crown gall tumors, an agronomically important disease that affects most dicotyledonous plants. In nature, these tumors are formed at the soil-air junction, the so-called crown of the plant. The Agrobacterium-plant cell interaction is the only known natural example of DNA transport between kingdoms. In this process, DNA is transported from wild-type Agrobacterium into nucleus. Expressionof this transferred DNA (T-DNA) results in neoplastic growths (tumors) on the host plant. The wild-type T-DNA carries genes involved in the synthesis of plant growth hormones and the production of opines, tumor-specific compounds formed by the condensation of an amino acid with a keto acid or a sugar. It is the production of growth hormones in the transformed host cells that induces the formation of tumors. These tumors then synthesize opines, a major carbon and nitrogen source for Agrobacterium. Agrobacteria are usually classified based on the type of opines specified by the bacterial T-DNA, the most common strains being octopine or nopaline specific (Hooykaas and Beijersbergen, 1994).
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