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Plant Mol Biol. 1990 Dec;15(6):809-19.

Optimization of delivery of foreign DNA into higher-plant chloroplasts.

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Department of Horticultural Sciences, Cornell University, Geneva, NY 14456.


We report here an efficient and highly reproducible delivery system, using an improved biolistic transformation device, that facilitates transient expression of beta-glucuronidase (GUS) in chloroplasts of cultured tobacco suspension cells. Cultured tobacco cells collected on filter papers were bombarded with tungsten particles coated with pUC118 or pBI101.3 (negative controls), pBI505 (positive nuclear control) or a chloroplast expression vector (pHD203-GUS), and were assayed for GUS activity. No GUS activity was detected in cells bombarded with pUC118 or pBI101.3. Cells bombarded with pBI505 showed high levels of expression with blue color being distributed evenly throughout the whole cytosol of the transformants. pHD203-GUS was expressed exclusively in chloroplasts. We base this conclusion on: i) the procaryotic nature of the promoter used in the chloroplast expression vector; ii) delayed GUS staining; iii) localization of blue color within subcellular compartments corresponding to plastids in both shape and size; and iv) confirmation of organelle-specific expression of pHD203-GUS using PEG-mediated protoplast transformation. Chloroplast transformation efficiencies increased dramatically (about 200-fold) using an improved helium-driven biolistic device, as compared to the more commonly used gun powder charge-driven device. Using GUS as a reporter gene and the improved biolistic device, optimal bombardment conditions were established, consistently producing several hundred transient chloroplast transformants per Petri plate. Chloroplast transformation efficiency was found to be increased further (20-fold) with supplemental osmoticum (0.55 M sorbitol and 0.55 M mannitol) in the bombardment and incubation medium. This system provides a highly effective mechanism for introducing and expressing plasmid DNA within higher-plant chloroplasts, and the fact that GUS functions as an effective marker gene now makes many genetic studies possible which were not possible before.

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