Research ArticleCELL BIOLOGY

Horizontal genome transfer by cell-to-cell travel of whole organelles

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Science Advances  01 Jan 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 1, eabd8215
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abd8215


Recent work has revealed that both plants and animals transfer genomes between cells. In plants, horizontal transfer of entire plastid, mitochondrial, or nuclear genomes between species generates new combinations of nuclear and organellar genomes, or produces novel species that are allopolyploid. The mechanisms of genome transfer between cells are unknown. Here, we used grafting to identify the mechanisms involved in plastid genome transfer from plant to plant. We show that during proliferation of wound-induced callus, plastids dedifferentiate into small, highly motile, amoeboid organelles. Simultaneously, new intercellular connections emerge by localized cell wall disintegration, forming connective pores through which amoeboid plastids move into neighboring cells. Our work uncovers a pathway of organelle movement from cell to cell and provides a mechanistic framework for horizontal genome transfer.

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