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Plant Physiol. 2010 Apr;152(4):2088-104. doi: 10.1104/pp.109.152017. Epub 2010 Feb 3.

The role of heterologous chloroplast sequence elements in transgene integration and expression.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology, College of Medicine, University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida 32816-2364, USA.


Heterologous regulatory elements and flanking sequences have been used in chloroplast transformation of several crop species, but their roles and mechanisms have not yet been investigated. Nucleotide sequence identity in the photosystem II protein D1 (psbA) upstream region is 59% across all taxa; similar variation was consistent across all genes and taxa examined. Secondary structure and predicted Gibbs free energy values of the psbA 5' untranslated region (UTR) among different families reflected this variation. Therefore, chloroplast transformation vectors were made for tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) and lettuce (Lactuca sativa), with endogenous (Nt-Nt, Ls-Ls) or heterologous (Nt-Ls, Ls-Nt) psbA promoter, 5' UTR and 3' UTR, regulating expression of the anthrax protective antigen (PA) or human proinsulin (Pins) fused with the cholera toxin B-subunit (CTB). Unique lettuce flanking sequences were completely eliminated during homologous recombination in the transplastomic tobacco genomes but not unique tobacco sequences. Nt-Ls or Ls-Nt transplastomic lines showed reduction of 80% PA and 97% CTB-Pins expression when compared with endogenous psbA regulatory elements, which accumulated up to 29.6% total soluble protein PA and 72.0% total leaf protein CTB-Pins, 2-fold higher than Rubisco. Transgene transcripts were reduced by 84% in Ls-Nt-CTB-Pins and by 72% in Nt-Ls-PA lines. Transcripts containing endogenous 5' UTR were stabilized in nonpolysomal fractions. Stromal RNA-binding proteins were preferentially associated with endogenous psbA 5' UTR. A rapid and reproducible regeneration system was developed for lettuce commercial cultivars by optimizing plant growth regulators. These findings underscore the need for sequencing complete crop chloroplast genomes, utilization of endogenous regulatory elements and flanking sequences, as well as optimization of plant growth regulators for efficient chloroplast transformation.

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