We report here the isolation of spectinomycin-resistant mutants in cultured cells of Medicago sativa line RegenSY-T2. Spectinomycin induces bleaching of cultured alfalfa cells due to inhibition of protein synthesis on the prokaryotic type 70S plastid ribosomes. Spontaneous mutants resistant to spectinomycin bleaching were identified by their ability to form green shoots on plant regeneration medium containing selective spectinomycin concentrations in the range of 25-50 mg/l. Sequencing of the plastid rrn16 gene revealed that spectinomycin resistance is due to mutations in a conserved stem structure of the 16S rRNA. Resistant plants transferred to the greenhouse developed normally and produced spectinomycin-resistant seed progeny. In light of their absence in soybean, a related leguminous plant, the isolation of spectinomycin-resistant mutants in M. sativa was unexpected. The new mutations are useful for the study of plastid inheritance, as demonstrated by detection of predominantly paternal plastid inheritance in the RegenSY-T2 x Szapko57 cross, and can be used as selective markers in plastid transformation vectors to obtain cisgenic plants.
Plastids and mitochondria, the DNA-containing cytoplasmic organelles, are maternally inherited in the majority of angiosperm species. Even in plants with strict maternal inheritance, exceptional paternal transmission of plastids has been observed. Our objective was to detect rare leakage of plastids via pollen in Nicotiana sylvestris and to determine if pollen transmission of plastids results in co-transmission of paternal mitochondria. As father plants, we used N. sylvestris plants with transgenic, selectable plastids and wild-type mitochondria. As mother plants, we used N. sylvestris plants with Nicotiana undulata cytoplasm, including the CMS-92 mitochondria that cause cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) by homeotic transformation of the stamens. We report here exceptional paternal plastid DNA in approximately 0.002% of N. sylvestris seedlings. However, we did not detect paternal mitochondrial DNA in any of the six plastid-transmission lines, suggesting independent transmission of the cytoplasmic organelles via pollen. When we used fertile N. sylvestris as mothers, we obtained eight fertile plastid transmission lines, which did not transmit their plastids via pollen at higher frequencies than their fathers. We discuss the implications for transgene containment and plant evolutionary histories inferred from cytoplasmic phylogenies.
Our objective was to test whether or not plastids and mitochondria, the two DNA-containing organelles, move between cells in plants. As our experimental approach, we grafted two different species of tobacco, Nicotiana tabacum and Nicotiana sylvestris. Grafting triggers formation of new cell-to-cell contacts, creating an opportunity to detect cell-to-cell organelle movement between the genetically distinct plants. We initiated tissue culture from sliced graft junctions and selected for clonal lines in which gentamycin resistance encoded in the N. tabacum nucleus was combined with spectinomycin resistance encoded in N. sylvestris plastids. Here, we present evidence for cell-to-cell movement of the entire 161-kb plastid genome in these plants, most likely in intact plastids. We also found that the related mitochondria were absent, suggesting independent movement of the two DNA-containing organelles. Acquisition of plastids from neighboring cells provides a mechanism by which cells may be repopulated with functioning organelles. Our finding supports the universality of intercellular organelle trafficking and may enable development of future biotechnological applications.