Genetic transformation of HeLa cells by Agrobacterium

Talya Kunik, Tzvi Tzfira, Yoram Kapulnik, Yedidya Gafni, Colin Dingwall, Vitaly Citovsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

245 Scopus citations


Agrobacterium tumefaciens is a soil phytopathogen that elicits neoplastic growths on the host plant species. In nature, however, Agrobacterium also may encounter organisms belonging to other kingdoms such as insects and animals that feed on the infected plants. Can Agrobacterium, then, also infect animal cells? Here, we report that Agrobacterium attaches to and genetically transforms several types of human cells. In stably transformed HeLa cells, the integration event occurred at the right border of the tumor-inducing plasmid's transferred-DNA (T-DNA), suggesting bona fide T-DNA transfer and lending support to the notion that Agrobacterium transforms human cells by a mechanism similar to that which it uses for transformation of plants cells. Collectively, our results suggest that Agrobacterium can transport its T-DNA to human cells and integrate it into their genome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1871-1876
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number4
StatePublished - 13 Feb 2001
Externally publishedYes

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