The neoplastic diseases of plants have not only had a long and interesting history but also have, over the years, served as model systems for studying the basic cellular mechanisms that underlie the tumorous state. The crown gall disease of plants was, for example, the first neoplastic disease in which the proximate cause was characterized experimentally (Smith and Townsend, 1907), a finding that preceded by 1 year the report of Ellermann and Bang (1908) on the transmissibility of fowl leukemia and by 3 years the report of Rous (1910) on the production of solid tumors in chickens with cell-free filtrates. Plant tumors were also among the earliest shown to be transplantable. Shortly after the turn of the century, C. O. Jensen—who because of his now classic investigations on the transplantability of first mouse and later rat cancers is generally considered to be the father of modern experimental cancer research—also demonstrated that the plant tumors with which he worked were transplantable (Jensen, 1910, 1918). He stated, moreover, that those plant tumors “remind one so much of malignant tumors in animals that a closer study of their biological relationships would undoubtedly be profitable” (Jensen, 1910). In comparing plant and animal tumors it must be recognized, however, that there are certain structural and functional differences commonly used to distinguish cancers in animals that are more or less restricted to animals. However, the most essential characteristic, namely, the ability of a cell to grow in an essentially unrestrained or autonomous manner in a host, on which all other diagnostic features ultimately depend, is equally capable of expression in all higher organisms since it is a characteristic feature of the cell itself. While differences in particulars clearly exist, plants can nevertheless be legitimately used as experimental test objects for attempts to uncover fundamental concepts that lead to an understanding of neoplastic growth generally.
KeywordsTumorous State Tracheary Element Crown Gall High Plant Species Normal Cell Cycle
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