Our objective was to test whether or not plastids and mitochondria, the two DNA-containing organelles, move between cells in plants. As our experimental approach, we grafted two different species of tobacco, Nicotiana tabacum and Nicotiana sylvestris. Grafting triggers formation of new cell-to-cell contacts, creating an opportunity to detect cell-to-cell organelle movement between the genetically distinct plants. We initiated tissue culture from sliced graft junctions and selected for clonal lines in which gentamycin resistance encoded in the N. tabacum nucleus was combined with spectinomycin resistance encoded in N. sylvestris plastids. Here, we present evidence for cell-to-cell movement of the entire 161-kb plastid genome in these plants, most likely in intact plastids. We also found that the related mitochondria were absent, suggesting independent movement of the two DNA-containing organelles. Acquisition of plastids from neighboring cells provides a mechanism by which cells may be repopulated with functioning organelles. Our finding supports the universality of intercellular organelle trafficking and may enable development of future biotechnological applications.
Thyssen, GregorySvab, ZoraMaliga, PalProc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Feb 14;109(7):2439-43. Epub 2012 Jan 30.