In this work we investigated the ability of the plant pathogen Ralstonia solanacearum to develop a state of competence in planta and to be genetically transformed during the infection process. Tomato plants infected with R. solanacearum GMI1000 were inoculated with plasmid DNA. R. solanacearum clones expressing the marker gene were selected only during the period of time that bacteria were actively multiplying inside the plant vessels. Moreover, experiments in which R. solanacearum strains harboring different marker genes were co-inoculated into the plant demonstrated that infecting bacterial strains exchange genetic information in planta by a mechanism that is likely to be transformation. To our knowledge, these results constitute the first demonstration of soil microorganisms developing a state of competence in planta. The biotechnological implications of this result will be discussed.
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