Particle gun-mediated (so-called 'biolistic') transformation represents a universal genetic transformation technology that is widely applied in nearly all groups of organisms. The mechanism of how accelerated DNA-coated particles, after their entry into the cell, deliver the foreign DNA to the target compartment is not known. Here we have studied this process in plants by performing co-transformation experiments with vectors targeted to two different cellular compartments, the nucleus and the plastids (chloroplasts). We find that coating of particles with both plastid and nuclear transformation vectors can result in co-transformation of chloroplasts and the nucleus. In contrast, mixing of particles coated individually with the vectors does not produce co-transformed plants. Our data suggest that a single DNA-coated particle can transform more than one compartment of the plant cell, opening up the possibility to generate doubly transgenic plants in one step. Importantly, co-transformation can also be obtained in the absence of selection, thus providing a method to produce marker-free transgenic genomes. In addition, our findings raise the possibility of occasional inadvertent co-transformation of two genomes and, therefore, have important implications for the molecular characterization and regulation of transgenic plants.
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