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J Exp Bot. 2005 Sep;56(419):2443-52. Epub 2005 Aug 1.

Soluble methionine enhances accumulation of a 15 kDa zein, a methionine-rich storage protein, in transgenic alfalfa but not in transgenic tobacco plants.

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Plant Science Laboratory, Migal-Galilee Technology Center, PO Box 831, Kiryat Shmona, 11016, Israel.


With the general aim of elevating the content of the essential amino acid methionine in vegetative tissues of plants, alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) and tobacco plants, as well as BY2 tobacco suspension cells, were transformed with a beta-zein::3HA gene under the 35S promoter of cauliflower mosaic virus encoding a rumen-stable methionine-rich storage protein of 15 kDa zein. To examine whether soluble methionine content limited the accumulation of the 15 kDa zein::3HA, methionine was first added to the growth medium of the different transgenic plants and the level of the alien protein was determined. Results demonstrated that the added methionine enhanced the accumulation of the 15 kDa zein::3HA in transgenic alfalfa and tobacco BY2 cells, but not in whole transgenic tobacco plants. Next, the endogenous levels of methionine were elevated in the transgenic tobacco and alfalfa plants by crossing them with plants expressing the Arabidopsis cystathionine gamma-synthase (AtCGS) having significantly higher levels of soluble methionine in their leaves. Compared with plants expressing only the 15 kDa zein::3HA, transgenic alfalfa co-expressing both alien genes showed significantly enhanced levels of this protein concurrently with a reduction in the soluble methionine content, thus implying that soluble methionine was incorporated into the 15 kDa zein::3HA. Similar phenomena also occurred in tobacco, but were considerably less pronounced. The results demonstrate that the accumulation of the 15 kDa zein::3HA is regulated in a species-specific manner and that soluble methionine plays a major role in the accumulation of the 15 kDa zein in some plant species but less so in others.

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