Exposure of Agrobacterium tumefaciens to agroinfiltration medium demonstrates cellular remodelling and may promote enhanced adaptability for molecular pharming

Can J Microbiol. 2021 Jan;67(1):85-97. doi: 10.1139/cjm-2020-0239. Epub 2020 Jul 28.


Agroinfiltration is used to treat plants with modified strains of Agrobacterium tumefaciens for the purpose of transient in planta expression of genes transferred from the bacterium. These genes encode valuable recombinant proteins for therapeutic or industrial applications. Treatment of large quantities of plants for industrial-scale protein production exposes bacteria (harboring genes of interest) to agroinfiltration medium that is devoid of nutrients and carbon sources for prolonged periods of time (possibly upwards of 24 h). Such conditions may negatively influence bacterial viability, infectivity of plant cells, and target protein production. Here, we explored the role of timing in bacterial culture preparation for agroinfiltration using mass spectrometry-based proteomics to define changes in cellular processes. We observed distinct profiles associated with bacterial treatment conditions and exposure timing, including significant changes in proteins involved in pathogenesis, motility, and nutrient acquisition systems as the bacteria adapt to the new environment. These data suggest a progression towards increased cellular remodelling over time. In addition, we described changes in growth- and environment-specific processes over time, underscoring the interconnectivity of pathogenesis and chemotaxis-associated proteins with transport and metabolism. Overall, our results have important implications for the production of transiently expressed target protein products, as prolonged exposure to agroinfiltration medium suggests remodelling of the bacterial proteins towards enhanced infection of plant cells.

Keywords: Agrobacterium tumefaciens; agroinfiltration medium; bioreactor; bioréacteur; flacon d’agitation; milieu d’agro-infiltration; molecular pharming; pharmacologie moléculaire; protéomique quantitative; quantitative proteomics; shake flask.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / drug effects*
  • Agricultural Inoculants / drug effects*
  • Agricultural Inoculants / physiology
  • Agrobacterium tumefaciens / drug effects*
  • Agrobacterium tumefaciens / physiology
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Culture Media / metabolism
  • Culture Media / pharmacology*
  • Molecular Farming*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / microbiology
  • Proteomics
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Culture Media
  • Recombinant Proteins