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Plant Cell Rep. 2013 Oct;32(10):1601-13. doi: 10.1007/s00299-013-1470-x. Epub 2013 Jun 15.

Efficient auto-excision of a selectable marker gene from transgenic citrus by combining the Cre/loxP system and ipt selection.

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  • 1Citrus Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Chongqing, 400712, People's Republic of China,



A highly efficient Cre-mediated deletion system, offering a good alternative for producing marker-free transgenic plants that will relieve public concerns regarding GMOs, was first developed in citrus. The presence of marker genes in genetically modified crops raises public concerns regarding their safety. The removal of marker genes can prevent the risk of their flow into the environment and hasten the public's acceptance of transgenic products. In this study, a new construct based on the Cre/loxP site-recombination system was designed to delete marker genes from transgenic citrus. In the construct, the selectable marker gene isopentenyltransferase gene (ipt) from Agrobacterium tumefaciens and the Cre recombinase gene were flanked by two loxP recognition sites in the direct orientation. The green fluorescent protein (gfp) reporter gene for monitoring the transformation of foreign genes was located outside of the loxP sequences. Transformation and deletion efficiencies of the vector were investigated using nopaline synthase gene (NosP) and CaMV 35S promoters to drive expression of Cre. Analysis of GFP activity showed that 28.1 and 13.6 % transformation efficiencies could be obtained by NosP- and CaMV 35S-driven deletions, respectively. Molecular analysis demonstrated that 100 % deletion efficiency was observed in the transgenic plants. The complete excision of the marker gene was found in all deletion events driven by NosP and in 81.8 % of deletion events driven by CaMV 35S. The results showed that Cre/loxP-mediated excision was highly efficient and precise in citrus. This approach provides a reliable strategy for auto-deletion of selectable marker genes from transgenic citrus to produce marker-free transgenic plants.

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