Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Stegemann, et al., "High-frequency gene transfer from the chloroplast genome to the nucleus," PNAS 100: 8828-33 demonstrates gene transfer from tobacco chloroplasts to the nuclear genome at a frequency of 1 in 5 million cells. In his commentary (PNAS 100: 8612-4), William Martin writes:
On an evolutionary or environmental scale, 1 in 5,000,000 cells is a whopping number; to some it will be unbelievable and by no means will it make everybody happy. Some biotechnologists are adamant that foreign genes introduced into the chloroplast can be sequestered there and thus will not escape via pollen (introgress) from cultivated fields into wild species like nuclear genes can.
That speculative sequestering (because chloroplast DNA is not expressed in pollen) is essential to arguments about the future environmental safety of transgenic crops.


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