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.
Successful manipulation of the plastid genome (ptDNA) has been carried out so far only in tissue-culture cells, a limitation that prevents plastid transformation being applied in major agronomic crops. Our objective is to develop a tissue-culture independent protocol that enables manipulation of plastid genomes directly in plants to yield genetically stable seed progeny. We report that in planta excision of a plastid aurea bar gene (bar(au) ) is detectable in greenhouse-grown plants by restoration of the green pigmentation in tobacco leaves. The P1 phage Cre or PhiC31 phage Int site-specific recombinase was delivered on the Agrobacterium T-DNA injected at the axillary bud site, resulting in the excision of the target-site flanked marker gene. Differentiation of new apical meristems was forced by decapitating the plants above the injection site. The new shoot apex that differentiated at the injection site contained bar(au)-free plastids in 30-40% of the injected plants, of which 7% transmitted the bar(au)-free plastids to the seed progeny. The success of obtaining seed with bar(au)-free plastids depended on repeatedly forcing shoot development from axillary buds, a process that was guided by the size and position of green sectors in the leaves. The success of in planta plastid marker excision proved that manipulation of the plastid genomes is feasible within an intact plant. Extension of the protocol to in planta plastid transformation depends on the development of new protocols for the delivery of transforming DNA encoding visual markers.
The plastid genome of higher plants is relatively small, 120–230-kb in size, and present in up to 10,000 copies per cell. Standard protocols for the introduction of transforming DNA employ biolistic DNA delivery or polyethylene glycol treatment. Genetically stable, transgenic plants are obtained by modification of the plastid genome by homologous recombination, followed by selection for the transformed genome copy by the expression of marker genes that protect the cells from selective agents. Commonly used selective agents are antibiotics, including spectinomycin, streptomycin, kanamycin and chloramphenicol. Selection for resistance to amino acid analogues has also been successful. The types of plastid genome manipulations include gene deletion, gene insertion, and gene replacement, facilitated by specially designed transformation vectors. Methods are also available for post-transformation removal of marker genes. The model species for plastid genetic manipulation is Nicotiana tabacum, in which most protocols have been tested. Plastid transformation is also available in several solanaceous crops (tomato, potato, eggplant) and ornamental species (petunia, Nicotianasylvestris). Significant progress has been made with Brasssicaceae including cabbage, oilseed rape and Arabidopsis. Recent additions to the crops in which plastid transformation is reproducibly obtained are lettuce, soybean and sugar beet. The monocots are a taxonomic group recalcitrant to plastid transformation; initial inroads have been made only in rice.