Crop Biotech Update

Scientists Report Occurrence of Natural Transgenes

December 10, 2010

One of the issues about genetic engineering is the "unnatural" mixing of genes from different species. However, a team of researchers from Lund University, Sweden led by Pernilla Vallenback has proven that transgenes can occur in nature. They discovered that a gene (PgiC2) has been transferred into sheep's fescue (Festuca ovina) from a genetically different kind of grass, probably Poa palustrus (or a close relative). Based on the results of genome walking, it was shown that only a small potion of the DNA was transferred. This is the first reported case of horizontal gene transfer (HGT) or the transfer of genes between distantly related genomes by other techniques aside from sexual fertilization.

The mode of gene transfer is still unknown because it happened probably 700,000 years ago. But the presence of transposition associated properties suggests that the HGT occurred through a vector.

Read the research article published by PLoS ONE at http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0013529.