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The potential for horizontal gene transfer from transgenic plants to fungi - CB02032

One of the conclusions of the GM science review was that there is a gap in our knowledge and understanding of soil ecosystems, particularly the rate of DNA transfer between plants and fungi found in the soil and potentially in close association with plant roots. Defra has already let a desk study to review the current state of knowledge of the soil ecosystem which is expected to highlight gene transfer from plants to soil microorganisms as an area required further study.

In anticipation of this and in response to the GM Science Review Defra would like to let a project investigating the extent to which DNA from crop plants may transfer to fungi in the soil.Risk assessment for the release of GM plants considers the potential for and consequences of gene transfer. Where there is uncertainty over whether gene transfer will occur or not the precautionary approach is adopted which assumes that gene transfer will occur and an assessment is made as to whether the transfer of the genes in question will pose a hazard or not.

With respect to the potential for gene transfer it is considered that the likelihood of the stable incorporation of plant genes into bacterial genomes is a rare event, although it has been shown that bacteria can incorporate and express genes obtained from plants. In contrast the transfer of genes by Agrobacterium to plants provides a well know natural example of horizontal gene transfer from bacteria to plants. Since both plants and fungi are eukaryotes genes transferred from plants into fungi would be more likely to be expressed than those transferred to bacteria. However, the question as to whether gene transfer occurs between plants and fungi has received little attention.

The Department seeks tenders for a 2 year contract to conduct a research study to investigate the potential for gene transfer from plants to fungi. In cases where gene transfer is observed further investigation of gene expression, stability and inheritance should be carried out.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Research Contract CPEC21: The potential for horizontal gene transfer from transgenic plants to fungi   (9753k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2004

To: 2007

Cost: £421,779
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University - Exeter
Agricultural Land              
Environmental Protection              
GM Non-Food              
GM Risk Assessment              
Fields of Study
Biotechnology and GMOs