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Metab Eng. 2004 Apr;6(2):101-8.

Elevation of seed alpha-tocopherol levels using plant-based transcription factors targeted to an endogenous locus.

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Monsanto Company, 1920 5th Street, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


Synthetic zinc finger transcription factors (ZFP-TFs) were designed to upregulate the expression of the endogenous Arabidopsis gamma-tocopherol methyltransferase (GMT) gene. This gene encodes the enzyme responsible for the conversion of gamma-tocopherol to alpha-tocopherol, the tocopherol species with the highest vitamin E activity. Five three-finger zinc finger protein (ZFP) DNA binding domains were constructed and proven to bind tightly to 9 bp DNA sequences located in either the promoter or coding region of the GMT gene. When these ZFPs were fused to a nuclear localization signal and the maize C1 activation domain, four of the five resulting ZFP-TFs were able to upregulate the expression of the GMT gene in leaf protoplast transient assays. Seed-specific expression of these ZFP-TFs in transgenic Arabidopsis produced several lines with a heritable elevation in seed alpha-tocopherol. These results demonstrate that engineered ZFP-TFs comprised of plant-derived elements are capable of modulating the expression of endogenous genes in plants.

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