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Plant Physiol. 2001 Dec;127(4):1819-26.

Efficient down-regulation of the major vegetative storage protein genes in transgenic soybean does not compromise plant productivity.

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  • 1Department of Agronomy, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska 68583, USA.


Soybean (Glycine max L. Merr.) contains two related and abundant proteins, VSP alpha and VSP beta, that have been called vegetative storage proteins (VSP) based on their pattern of accumulation, degradation, tissue localization, and other characteristics. To determine whether these proteins play a critical role in sequestering N and other nutrients during early plant development, a VspA antisense gene construct was used to create transgenic plants in which VSP expression was suppressed in leaves, flowers, and seed pods. Total VSP was reduced at least 50-fold due to a 100-fold reduction in VSP alpha and a 10-fold reduction in VSP beta. Transgenic lines were grown in replicated yield trials in the field in Nebraska during the summer of 1999 and seed harvested from the lines was analyzed for yield, protein, oil, and amino acid composition. No significant difference (alpha = 0.05) was found between down-regulated lines and controls for any of the traits tested. Young leaves of antisense plants grown in the greenhouse contained around 3% less soluble leaf protein than controls at the time of flowering. However, total leaf N did not vary. Withdrawing N from plants during seed fill did not alter final seed protein content of antisense lines compared with controls. These results indicate that the VSPs play little if any direct role in overall plant productivity under typical growth conditions. The lack of VSPs in antisense plants might be partially compensated for by increases in other proteins and/or non-protein N. The results also suggest that the VSPs could be genetically engineered or replaced without deleterious effects.

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