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Plant Physiol. 2003 Sep;133(1):402-10.

Persistence of unselected transgenic DNA during a plastid transformation and segregation approach to herbicide resistance.

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  • 1Monsanto Company, St. Louis, Missouri 63198, USA. .


The use of a nonlethal selection scheme, most often using the aadA gene that confers resistance to spectinomycin and streptomycin, has been considered critical for recovery of plastid transformation events. In this study, the plastid-lethal markers, glyphosate or phosphinothricin herbicides, were used to develop a selection scheme for plastids that circumvents the need for integration of an antibiotic resistance marker. The effect of selective agents on tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) mesophyll chloroplasts was first examined by transmission electron microscopy. We found that at concentrations typically used for selection of nuclear transformants, herbicides caused rapid disintegration of plastid membranes, whereas antibiotics had no apparent effect. To overcome this apparent herbicide lethality to plastids, a "transformation segregation" scheme was developed that used two independent transformation vectors for a cotransformation approach and two different selective agents in a phased selection scheme. One transformation vector carried an antibiotic resistance (aadA) marker used for early nonlethal selection, and the other transformation vector carried the herbicide (CP4 or bar) resistance marker for use in a subsequent lethal selection phase. Because the two markers were carried on separate plasmids and were targeted to different locations on the plastid genome, we reasoned that segregation of the two markers in some transplastomic lines could occur. We report here a plastid cotransformation frequency of 50% to 64%, with a high frequency (20%) of these giving rise to transformation segregants containing exclusively the initially nonselected herbicide resistance marker. Our studies indicate a high degree of persistence of unselected transforming DNA, providing useful insights into plastid chromosome dynamics.

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