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J Appl Genet. 2006;47(4):277-86.

Unintended consequences of plant transformation: a molecular insight.


Plant genomes are dynamic structures having both the system to maintain and accurately reproduce the information encoded therein and the ability to accept more or less random changes, which is one of the foundations of evolution. Crop improvement and various uncontrolled stress factors can induce unintended genetic and epigenetic variations. In this review it is attempted to summarize factors causing such changes and the molecular nature of these variations in transgenic plants. Unintended effects in transgenic plants can be divided into three main groups: first, pleiotropic effects of integrated DNA on the host plant genome; second, the influence of the integration site and transgene architecture on transgene expression level and stability; and third, the effect of various stresses related to tissue handling, regeneration and clonal propagation. Many of these factors are recently being redefined due to new researches, which apply modern highly sensitive analytical techniques and sequenced model organisms. The ability to inspect large portions of genomes clearly shows that tissue culture contributes to a vast majority of observed genetic and epigenetic changes. Nevertheless, monitoring of thousands transcripts, proteins and metabolites reveals that unintended variation most often falls in the range of natural differences between landraces or varieties. We expect that an increasing amount of evidence on many important crop species will support these observations in the nearest future.

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