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During Infection of Its Host, the Plant Pathogen Ralstonia solanacearum Naturally Develops a State of Competence and Exchanges Genetic Material

May 1999 , Volume 12 , Number  5
Pages  467 - 472

Franck Bertolla , 1 Åsa Frostegård , 2 Belen Brito , 3 Xavier Nesme , 1 and Pascal Simonet 1

1Laboratoire d'Ecologie Microbienne du Sol, UMR CNRS 5557, Batiment 741, Université Lyon I, 43 bd du 11 Novembre 1918, F-69622 Villeurbanne Cedex, France; 2Department of Microbial Ecology, Lund University, Ecology Building, SE-223 62 Lund, Sweden; 3Laboratoire de Biologie Moléculaire des Relations Plantes-Microorganismes, INRA/CNRS, 31326 Castanet-Tolosan, France

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Accepted 22 January 1999.

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.

Additional keywords: genetic transfer.

© 1999 The American Phytopathological Society