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Plant Physiol. 2011 Apr;155(4):1690-708. doi: 10.1104/pp.110.169581. Epub 2011 Feb 16.

High levels of bioplastic are produced in fertile transplastomic tobacco plants engineered with a synthetic operon for the production of polyhydroxybutyrate.

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Metabolix, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


An optimized genetic construct for plastid transformation of tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) for the production of the renewable, biodegradable plastic polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) was designed using an operon extension strategy. Bacterial genes encoding the PHB pathway enzymes were selected for use in this construct based on their similarity to the codon usage and GC content of the tobacco plastome. Regulatory elements with limited homology to the host plastome yet known to yield high levels of plastidial recombinant protein production were used to enhance the expression of the transgenes. A partial transcriptional unit, containing genes of the PHB pathway and a selectable marker gene encoding spectinomycin resistance, was flanked at the 5' end by the host plant's psbA coding sequence and at the 3' end by the host plant's 3' psbA untranslated region. This design allowed insertion of the transgenes into the plastome as an extension of the psbA operon, rendering the addition of a promoter to drive the expression of the transgenes unnecessary. Transformation of the optimized construct into tobacco and subsequent spectinomycin selection of transgenic plants yielded T0 plants that were capable of producing up to 18.8% dry weight PHB in samples of leaf tissue. These plants were fertile and produced viable seed. T1 plants producing up to 17.3% dry weight PHB in samples of leaf tissue and 8.8% dry weight PHB in the total biomass of the plant were also isolated.

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