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Nat Biotechnol. 2001 Sep;19(9):870-5.

Stable genetic transformation of tomato plastids and expression of a foreign protein in fruit.

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Institut für Biologie III, Universität Freiburg, Schänzlestrasse 1, D-79104 Freiburg, Germany.


Transgenic chloroplasts offer unique advantages in plant biotechnology, including high-level foreign protein expression, absence of epigenetic effects, and gene containment due to the lack of transgene transmission through pollen. However, broad application of plastid genome engineering in biotechnology has been largely hampered by both the lack of chloroplast transformation systems for major crop plants and the usually low plastid gene expression levels in nongreen tissues such as fruits, tubers, and other storage organs. Here we describe the development of a plastid transformation system for tomato, Lycopersicon esculentum. This is the first report on the generation of fertile transplastomic plants in a food crop with an edible fruit. We show that chromoplasts in the tomato fruit express the transgene to approximately 50% of the expression levels in leaf chloroplasts. Given the generally very high foreign protein accumulation rates that can be achieved in transgenic chloroplasts (>40% of the total soluble protein), this system paves the way to efficient production of edible vaccines, pharmaceuticals, and antibodies in tomato.

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