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New Phytol. 2009;183(4):1201-11. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2009.02877.x. Epub 2009 Jun 3.

Rapeseed cytoplasm gives advantage in wild relatives and complicates genetically modified crop biocontainment.

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School of Biological Sciences, The University of Reading, Reading, Berkshire, UK.


Biocontainment methods for genetically modified crops closest to commercial reality (chloroplast transformation, male sterility) would be compromised (in absolute terms) by seed-mediated gene flow leading to chloroplast capture. Even in these circumstances, however, it can be argued that biocontainment still represses transgene movement, with the efficacy depending on the relative frequency of seed- and pollen-mediated gene flow. In this study, we screened for crop-specific chloroplast markers from rapeseed (Brassica napus) amongst sympatric and allopatric populations of wild B. oleracea in natural cliff-top populations and B. rapa in riverside and weedy populations. We found only modest crop chloroplast presence in wild B. oleracea and in weedy B. rapa, but a surprisingly high incidence in sympatric (but not in allopatric) riverside B. rapa populations. Chloroplast inheritance models indicate that elevated crop chloroplast acquisition is best explained if crop cytoplasm confers selective advantage in riverside B. rapa populations. Our results therefore imply that chloroplast transformation may slow transgene recruitment in two settings, but actually accelerate transgene spread in a third. This finding suggests that the appropriateness of chloroplast transformation for biocontainment policy depends on both context and geographical location.

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