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Plant Biotechnol J. 2006 Mar;4(2):183-93.

A bipartite system for the constitutive and inducible expression of high levels of foreign proteins in plants.

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  • 1John Innes Centre, Colney Lane, Norwich NR4 7UH, UK.


We have developed combined transgene/virus vector systems for the expression of heterologous proteins in plants. The systems are based on the bipartite RNA plant virus, cowpea mosaic virus (CPMV), and involve the amplification of integrated copies of either full-length or deleted versions of RNA-2 carrying a foreign gene. In the case of plants transgenic for full-length versions of RNA-2 carrying the green fluorescent protein (GFP), amplification can be achieved by supplying RNA-1 either exogenously or by crossing. This allows either inducible or constitutive expression of the foreign gene and results in an infection that can be passaged to further plants. Replication of deleted versions of RNA-2 harbouring GFP requires the presence of both RNA-1 and a suppressor of gene silencing, a function which we show can be supplied by HcPro from potato virus Y. Replication of the deleted versions of RNA-2 can be achieved by supplying the suppressor and RNA-1 either exogenously or by crossing, showing that this system can also be used in an inducible and constitutive format. The use of deleted forms of RNA-2 has the advantage that no infectious virus is produced, providing an effective method of biocontainment. The CPMV-based systems have advantages over existing plant expression systems in terms of the expression levels obtainable and the simplicity and flexibility of use, and should be of great practical benefit in the development of plants as bioreactors.

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