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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Apr 24;104(17):6998-7002. Epub 2007 Apr 9.

Determining the transgene containment level provided by chloroplast transformation.

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  • 1Max-Planck-Institut für Molekulare Pflanzenphysiologie, Am Mühlenberg 1, D-14476 Potsdam-Golm, Germany.


Plastids (chloroplasts) are maternally inherited in most crops. Maternal inheritance excludes plastid genes and transgenes from pollen transmission. Therefore, plastid transformation is considered a superb tool for ensuring transgene containment and improving the biosafety of transgenic plants. Here, we have assessed the strictness of maternal inheritance and the extent to which plastid transformation technology confers an increase in transgene confinement. We describe an experimental system facilitating stringent selection for occasional paternal plastid transmission. In a large screen, we detected low-level paternal inheritance of transgenic plastids in tobacco. Whereas the frequency of transmission into the cotyledons of F(1) seedlings was approximately 1.58 x 10(-5) (on 100% cross-fertilization), transmission into the shoot apical meristem was significantly lower (2.86 x 10(-6)). Our data demonstrate that plastid transformation provides an effective tool to increase the biosafety of transgenic plants. However, in cases where pollen transmission must be prevented altogether, stacking with other containment methods will be necessary to eliminate the residual outcrossing risk.

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