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Transgenic Res. 2007 Aug;16(4):467-78. Epub 2006 Nov 25.

High level accumulation of alpha-glucan in maize kernels by expressing the gtfD gene from Streptococcus mutans.

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  • 1Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., a DuPont company, Johnston, IA 50131, USA.


Glucosyltransferases (GTFs, EC. are bacterial enzymes that catalyze the polymerization of glucose residues from sucrose, leading to the production of high molecular weight glucan with alpha-1,3 /alpha-1,6 linkages. Such glucans, with many potential food and industrial applications, do not normally exist in higher plants. We fused a mutant form of the gtfD gene from Sreptococcus mutans with the maize (Zea mays L.) chloroplastic Brittle 1 transit peptide for amyloplast targeting. This construct, driven by the ubiquitin promoter, was introduced into maize by Agrobacterium-mediated transformation. We developed a novel HPLC-based method that enabled us differentially to distinguish transgene glucan from other endogenous polysaccharides in maize kernels. Using this method, we screened over 100 transgenic plants for the presence of GTF-produced glucan whose content varied between 0.8 and 14% of dry weight in the mature transgenic seeds. The mature transgenic plants were indistinguishable from wildtype plants in growth rate and morphology. Furthermore, starch granule size in the transgenic maize kernel was unaffected by the accumulation of the foreign polysaccharide. Mutation in Sh2, which encodes a subunit of ADP-glucose pyrophosphorylase, had no effect on glucan accumulation caused by gtfD expression. Our results indicated that high levels of novel carbohydrate polymer can be accumulated in crop plants through transgene technology.

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