• Open Access

Agrobacterium tumefaciens and A. rhizogenes use different proteins to transport bacterial DNA into the plant cell nucleus


*E-mail reamw@orst.edu; Tel. (+1) 541 737 1791; Fax (+1) 541 737 0496.


Agrobacterium tumefaciens and A. rhizogenes transport single-stranded DNA (ssDNA; T-strands) and virulence proteins into plant cells through a type IV secretion system. DNA transfer initiates when VirD2 nicks border sequences in the tumour-inducing plasmid, attaches to the 5′ end, and pilots T-strands into plant cells. Agrobacterium tumefaciens translocates ssDNA-binding protein VirE2 into plant cells where it targets T-strands into the nucleus. Some A. rhizogenes strains lack VirE2 but transfer T-strands efficiently due to the GALLS gene, which complements an A. tumefaciens virE2 mutant. VirE2 and full-length GALLS (GALLS-FL) contain nuclear localization sequences that target these proteins to the plant cell nucleus. VirE2 binds cooperatively to T-strands allowing it to move ssDNA without ATP hydrolysis. Unlike VirE2, GALLS-FL contains ATP-binding and helicase motifs similar to those in TraA, a strand transferase involved in conjugation. VirE2 may accumulate in the nucleus and pull T-strands into the nucleus using the force generated by cooperative DNA binding. GALLS-FL accumulates inside the nucleus where its predicted ATP-dependent strand transferase may pull T-strands into the nucleus. These different mechanisms for nuclear import of T-strands may affect the efficiency and quality of transgenic events in plant biotechnology applications.