Publications

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Azhagiri, AK, Maliga P.  2007.  DNA markers define plastid haplotypes in Arabidopsis thaliana. Current Genetics. 51:269-75. AbstractWebsite
To identify genetic markers in the Arabidopsis thaliana plastid genome (ptDNA), we amplified and sequenced the rpl2-psbA and rbcL-accD regions in 26 ecotypes. The two regions contained eight polymorphic sites including five insertions and/or deletions (indels) involving changes in the length of A or T mononucleotide repeats and three base substitutions. The 27 alleles defined 15 plastid haplotypes, providing a practical set of ptDNA markers for the Columbia, Landsberg erecta and Wassilewskija ecotypes that are commonly used in genetic studies and also for the C24 and RLD ecotypes that are the most amenable for cell culture manipulations.
Azhagiri, AK, Maliga P.  2007.  Exceptional paternal inheritance of plastids in Arabidopsis suggests that low-frequency leakage of plastids via pollen may be universal in plants. Plant J.. 52:817-23. AbstractWebsite
Plastid DNA is absent in pollen or sperm cells of Arabidopsis thaliana. Accordingly, plastids and mitochondria, in a standard genetic cross, are transmitted to the seed progeny by the maternal parent only. Our objective was to test whether paternal plastids are transmitted by pollen as an exception. The maternal parent in our cross was a nuclear male sterile (ms1-1/ms1-1), spectinomycin-sensitive Ler plant. It was fertilized with pollen of a male fertile RLD-Spc1 plant carrying a plastid-encoded spectinomycin resistance mutation. Seedlings with paternal plastids were selected by spectinomycin resistance encoded in the paternal plastid DNA. Our data, in general, support maternal inheritance of plastids in A. thaliana. However, we report that paternal plastids are transmitted to the seed progeny in Arabidopsis at a low (3.9 x 10(-5)) frequency. This observation extends previous reports in Antirrhinum majus, Epilobium hirsutum, Nicotiana tabacum, Petunia hybrida, and the cereal crop Setaria italica to a cruciferous species suggesting that low-frequency paternal leakage of plastids via pollen may be universal in plants previously thought to exhibit strict maternal plastid inheritance. The genetic tools employed here will facilitate testing the effect of Arabidopsis nuclear mutations on plastid inheritance and allow for the design of mutant screens to identify nuclear genes controlling plastid inheritance.
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Cardi, T, Lenzi P, Maliga P.  2010.  Chloroplasts as expression platforms for plant-produced vaccines. Expert Rev. Vaccines. 9:893-911. AbstractWebsite
Production of recombinant subunit vaccines from genes incorporated in the plastid genome is advantageous because of the attainable expression level due to high transgene copy number and the absence of gene silencing; biocontainment as a consequence of maternal inheritance of plastids and no transgene presence in the pollen; and expression of multiple transgenes in prokaryotic-like operons. We discuss the core technology of plastid transformation in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, a unicellular alga, and Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco), a flowering plant species, and demonstrate the utility of the technology for the production of recombinant vaccine antigens.
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Dudas, B, Jenes B, Kiss GB, Maliga P.  2012.  Spectinomycin resistance mutations in the rrn16 gene are new plastid markers in Medicago sativa. Theor. Appl. Genet. 125:1517-23. AbstractWebsite
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.
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Kittiwongwattana, C, Lutz K, Clark M, Maliga P.  2007.  Plastid marker gene excision by the phiC31 phage site-specific recombinase. Plant Mol. Biol.. 64:137-43. AbstractWebsite
Marker genes are essential for selective amplification of rare transformed plastid genome copies to obtain genetically stable transplastomic plants. However, the marker gene becomes dispensable when homoplastomic plants are obtained. Here we report excision of plastid marker genes by the phiC31 phage site-specific integrase (Int) that mediates recombination between bacterial (attB) and phage (attP) attachment sites. We tested marker gene excision in a two-step process. First we transformed the tobacco plastid genome with the pCK2 vector in which the spectinomycin resistance (aadA) marker gene is flanked with suitably oriented attB and attP sites. The transformed plastid genomes were stable in the absence of Int. We then transformed the nucleus with a gene encoding a plastid-targeted Int that led to efficient marker gene excision. The aadA marker free Nt-pCK2-Int plants were resistant to phosphinothricin herbicides since the pCK2 plastid vector also carried a bar herbicide resistance gene that, due to the choice of its promoter, causes a yellowish-golden (aurea) phenotype. Int-mediated marker excision reported here is an alternative to the currently used CRE/loxP plastid marker excision system and expands the repertoire of the tools available for the manipulation of the plastid genome.
Krichevsky, A, Meyers B, Vainstein A, Maliga P, Citovsky V.  2010.  Autoluminescent plants. PloS one. 5:e15461. AbstractWebsite
Prospects of obtaining plants glowing in the dark have captivated the imagination of scientists and layman alike. While light emission has been developed into a useful marker of gene expression, bioluminescence in plants remained dependent on externally supplied substrate. Evolutionary conservation of the prokaryotic gene expression machinery enabled expression of the six genes of the lux operon in chloroplasts yielding plants that are capable of autonomous light emission. This work demonstrates that complex metabolic pathways of prokaryotes can be reconstructed and function in plant chloroplasts and that transplastomic plants can emit light that is visible by naked eye.
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Lenzi, P, Scotti N, Alagna F, Tornesello ML, Pompa A, Vitale A, De Stradis A, Monti L, Grillo S, Buonaguro FM et al..  2008.  Translational fusion of chloroplast-expressed human papillomavirus type 16 L1 capsid protein enhances antigen accumulation in transplastomic tobacco. Transgenic Research. 17:1091-102. AbstractWebsite
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the causal agent of cervical cancer, one of the most common causes of death for women. The major capsid L1 protein self-assembles in Virus Like Particles (VLPs), which are highly immunogenic and suitable for vaccine production. In this study, a plastid transformation approach was assessed in order to produce a plant-based HPV-16 L1 vaccine. Transplastomic plants were obtained after transformation with vectors carrying a chimeric gene encoding the L1 protein either as the native viral (L1(v) gene) or a synthetic sequence optimized for expression in plant plastids (L1(pt) gene) under control of plastid expression signals. The L1 mRNA was detected in plastids and the L1 antigen accumulated up to 1.5% total leaf proteins only when vectors included the 5'-UTR and a short N-terminal coding segment (Downstream Box) of a plastid gene. The half-life of the engineered L1 protein, determined by pulse-chase experiments, is at least 8 h. Formation of immunogenic VLPs in chloroplasts was confirmed by capture ELISA assay using antibodies recognizing conformational epitopes and by electron microscopy.
Lutz, KA, Maliga P.  2007.  Construction of marker-free transplastomic plants. Current Opinion in Biotechnology. 18:107-14. AbstractWebsite
Because of its prokaryotic-type gene expression machinery, maternal inheritance and the opportunity to express proteins at a high level, the plastid genome (plastome or ptDNA) is an increasingly popular target for engineering. The ptDNA is present as up to 10,000 copies per cell, making selection for marker genes essential to obtain plants with uniformly transformed ptDNA. However, the marker gene is no longer desirable when homoplastomic plants are obtained. Marker-free transplastomic plants can now be obtained with four recently developed protocols: homology-based excision via directly repeated sequences, excision by phage site-specific recombinanses, transient cointegration of the marker gene, and the cotransformation-segregation approach. Marker excision technology will benefit applications in agriculture and in molecular farming.
Lutz, KA, Azhagiri A, Maliga P.  2011.  Transplastomics in Arabidopsis: progress toward developing an efficient method. Methods in Molecular Biology. 774:133-47. AbstractWebsite
Protocols developed for plastome engineering in Nicotiana tabacum rely on biolistic delivery of the transforming DNA to chloroplasts in intact leaf tissue; integration of the foreign DNA into the plastid genome by homologous recombination via flanking plastid DNA (ptDNA) targeting regions; and gradual dilution of non-transformed ptDNA during cultivation in vitro. Plastid transformation in Arabidopsis was obtained by combining the tobacco leaf transformation protocol with Arabidopsis-specific tissue culture and plant regeneration protocols. Because the leaf cells in Arabidopsis are polyploid, this protocol yielded sterile plants. Meristematic cells in a shoot apex or cells of a developing embryo are diploid. Therefore, we developed a regulated embryogenic root culture system that will generate diploid tissue for plastid transformation. This embryogenic culture system is created by steroid-inducible expression of the BABY BOOM transcription factor. Plastid transformation in Arabidopsis will enable the probing of plastid gene function, and the characterization of posttranscriptional mechanisms of gene regulation and the regulatory interactions of plastid and nuclear genes.
Lutz, KA, Maliga P.  2008.  Plastid genomes in a regenerating tobacco shoot derive from a small number of copies selected through a stochastic process. Plant J.. 56:975-83. AbstractWebsite
The plastid genome (ptDNA) of higher plants is highly polyploid, and the 1000-10 000 copies are compartmentalized with up to approximately 100 plastids per cell. The problem we address here is whether or not a newly arising genome can be established in a developing tobacco shoot, and be transmitted to the seed progeny. We tested this by generating two unequal ptDNA populations in a cultured tobacco cell. The parental tobacco plants in this study have an aurea (yellowish-golden) leaf color caused by the presence of a bar(au) gene in the ptDNA. In addition, the ptDNA carries an aadA gene flanked with the phiC31 phage site-specific recombinase (Int) attP/attB target sites. The genetically distinct ptDNA copies were obtained by Int, which either excised only the aadA marker gene (i.e. did not affect the aurea phenotype) or triggered the deletion of both the aadA and bar(au) transgenes, and thereby restored the green color. The ptDNA determining green plastids represented only a small fraction of the population and was not seen in a transient excision assay, and yet three out of the 53 regenerated shoots carried green plastids in all developmental layers. The remaining 49 Int-expressing plants had either exclusively aurea (24) or variegated (25) leaves with aurea and green sectors. The formation of homoplastomic green shoots with the minor green ptDNA in all developmental layers suggests that the ptDNA population in a regenerating shoot apical meristem derives from a small number of copies selected through a stochastic process.
Lutz, KA, Azhagiri AK, Tungsuchat-Huang T, Maliga P.  2007.  A guide to choosing vectors for transformation of the plastid genome of higher plants. Plant Physiol.. 145:1201-10. AbstractWebsite
Plastid transformation, originally developed in tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum), has recently been extended to a number of crop species enabling in vivo probing of plastid function and biotechnological applications. In this article we report new plastid vectors that enable insertion of transgenes in the inverted repeat region of the plastome between the trnV and 3'rps12 or trnI and trnA genes. Efficient recovery of transplastomic clones is ensured by selection for spectinomycin (aadA) or kanamycin (neo) resistance genes. Expression of marker genes can be verified using commercial antibodies that detect the accumulation of neomycin phosphotranseferase II, the neo gene product, or the C-terminal c-myc tag of aminoglycoside-3''-adenylytransferase, encoded by the aadA gene. Aminoglycoside-3''-adenylytransferase, the spectinomycin inactivating enzyme, is translationally fused with green fluorescent protein in two vectors so that transplastomic clones can be selected by spectinomycin resistance and visually identified by fluorescence in ultraviolet light. The marker genes in the new vectors are flanked by target sites for Cre or Int, the P1 and phiC31 phage site-specific recombinases. When uniform transformation of all plastid genomes is obtained, the marker genes can be excised by Cre or Int expressed from a nuclear gene. Choice of expression signals for the gene of interest, complications caused by the presence of plastid DNA sequences recognized by Cre, and loss of transgenes by homologous recombination via duplicated sequences are also discussed to facilitate a rational choice from among the existing vectors and to aid with new target-specific vector designs.
Lutz, KA, Maliga P.  2007.  Transformation of the plastid genome to study RNA editing. Methods in Enzymology. 424:501-18. AbstractWebsite
In this chapter we provide an overview of cytosine-to-uridine (C-to-U) RNA editing in the plastids of higher plants. Particular emphasis will be placed on the role plastid transformation played in understanding the editing process. We discuss how plastid transformation enabled identification of mRNA cis elements for editing and gave the first insight into the role of editing trans factors. The introduction will be followed by a protocol for plastid transformation, including vector design employed to identify editing cis elements. We also discuss how to test RNA editing in vivo by cDNA sequencing. At the end, we summarize the status of the field and outline future directions.
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Maliga, P, Svab Z.  2011.  Engineering the plastid genome of Nicotiana sylvestris, a diploid model species for plastid genetics. Methods in Molecular Biology. 701:37-50. AbstractWebsite
The plastids of higher plants have their own approximately 120-160-kb genome that is present in 1,000-10,000 copies per cell. Engineering of the plastid genome (ptDNA) is based on homologous recombination between the plastid genome and cloned ptDNA sequences in the vector. A uniform population of engineered ptDNA is obtained by selection for marker genes encoded in the vectors. Manipulations of ptDNA include (1) insertion of transgenes in intergenic regions; (2) posttransformation excision of marker genes to obtain marker-free plants; (3) gene knockouts and gene knockdowns, and (4) cotransformation with multiple plasmids to introduce nonselected genes without physical linkage to marker genes. Most experiments on plastome engineering have been carried out in the allotetraploid Nicotiana tabacum. We report here for the first time plastid transformation in Nicotiana sylvestris, a diploid ornamental species. We demonstrate that the protocols and vectors developed for plastid transformation in N. tabacum are directly applicable to N. sylvestris with the advantage that the N. sylvestris transplastomic lines are suitable for mutant screens.
Maliga, P.  2012.  Plastid transformation in flowering plants. Genomics of Chloroplasts and Mitochondria. 35:393-414. Abstract
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.
Maliga, P, Bock R.  2011.  Plastid biotechnology: food, fuel, and medicine for the 21st century. Plant Physiol.. 155:1501-10.Website
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Sharwood, RE, von Caemmerer S, Maliga P, Whitney SM.  2008.  The catalytic properties of hybrid Rubisco comprising tobacco small and sunflower large subunits mirror the kinetically equivalent source Rubiscos and can support tobacco growth. Plant Physiol.. 146:83-96. AbstractWebsite
Plastomic replacement of the tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) Rubisco large subunit gene (rbcL) with that from sunflower (Helianthus annuus; rbcL(S)) produced tobacco(Rst) transformants that produced a hybrid Rubisco consisting of sunflower large and tobacco small subunits (L(s)S(t)). The tobacco(Rst) plants required CO(2) (0.5% v/v) supplementation to grow autotrophically from seed despite the substrate saturated carboxylation rate, K(m), for CO(2) and CO(2)/O(2) selectivity of the L(s)S(t) enzyme mirroring the kinetically equivalent tobacco and sunflower Rubiscos. Consequently, at the onset of exponential growth when the source strength and leaf L(s)S(t) content were sufficient, tobacco(Rst) plants grew to maturity without CO(2) supplementation. When grown under a high pCO(2), the tobacco(Rst) seedlings grew slower than tobacco and exhibited unique growth phenotypes: Juvenile plants formed clusters of 10 to 20 structurally simple oblanceolate leaves, developed multiple apical meristems, and the mature leaves displayed marginal curling and dimpling. Depending on developmental stage, the L(s)S(t) content in tobacco(Rst) leaves was 4- to 7-fold less than tobacco, and gas exchange coupled with chlorophyll fluorescence showed that at 2 mbar pCO(2) and growth illumination CO(2) assimilation in mature tobacco(Rst) leaves remained limited by Rubisco activity and its rate (approximately 11 micromol m(-2) s(-1)) was half that of tobacco controls. (35)S-methionine labeling showed the stability of assembled L(s)S(t) was similar to tobacco Rubisco and measurements of light transient CO(2) assimilation rates showed L(s)S(t) was adequately regulated by tobacco Rubisco activase. We conclude limitations to tobacco(Rst) growth primarily stem from reduced rbcL(S) mRNA levels and the translation and/or assembly of sunflower large with the tobacco small subunits that restricted L(s)S(t) synthesis.
Sinagawa-Garcia, SR, Tungsuchat-Huang T, Paredes-Lopez O, Maliga P.  2009.  Next generation synthetic vectors for transformation of the plastid genome of higher plants. Plant Mol. Biol.. 70:487-98. AbstractWebsite
Plastid transformation vectors are E. coli plasmids carrying a plastid marker gene for selection, adjacent cloning sites and flanking plastid DNA to target insertions in the plastid genome by homologous recombination. We report here on a family of next generation plastid vectors carrying synthetic DNA vector arms targeting insertions in the rbcL-accD intergenic region of the tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) plastid genome. The pSS22 plasmid carries only synthetic vector arms from which the undesirable restriction sites have been removed by point mutations. The pSS24 vector carries a c-Myc tagged spectinomycin resistance (aadA) marker gene whereas in vector pSS30 aadA is flanked with loxP sequences for post-transformation marker excision. The synthetic vectors will enable direct manipulation of passenger genes in the transformation vector targeting insertions in the rbcL-accD intergenic region that contains many commonly used restriction sites.
Svab, Z, Maliga P.  2007.  Exceptional transmission of plastids and mitochondria from the transplastomic pollen parent and its impact on transgene containment. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.. 104:7003-8. AbstractWebsite
Plastids in Nicotiana tabacum are normally transmitted to the progeny by the maternal parent only. However, low-frequency paternal plastid transmission has been reported in crosses involving parents with an alien cytoplasm. Our objective was to determine whether paternal plastids are transmitted in crosses between parents with the normal cytoplasm. The transplastomic father lines carried a spectinomycin resistance (aadA) transgene incorporated in the plastid genome. The mother lines in the crosses were either (i) alloplasmic, with the Nicotiana undulata cytoplasm that confers cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS92) or (ii) normal, with the fertile N. tabacum cytoplasm. Here we report that plastids from the transplastomic father were transmitted in both cases at low (10(-4)-10(-5)) frequencies; therefore, rare paternal pollen transmission is not simply due to breakdown of normal controls caused by the alien cytoplasm. Furthermore, we have found that the entire plastid genome was transmitted by pollen rather than small plastid genome (ptDNA) fragments. Interestingly, the plants, which inherited paternal plastids, also carried paternal mitochondrial DNA, indicating cotransmission of plastids and mitochondria in the same pollen. The detection of rare paternal plastid transmission described here was facilitated by direct selection for the transplastomic spectinomycin resistance marker in tissue culture; therefore, recovery of rare paternal plastids in the germline is less likely to occur under field conditions.
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Thyssen, G, Svab Z, Maliga P.  2012.  Cell-to-cell movement of plastids in plants. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.. 109:2439-43. AbstractWebsite
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.
Thyssen, G, Svab Z, Maliga P.  2012.  Exceptional inheritance of plastids via pollen in Nicotiana sylvestris with no detectable paternal mitochondrial DNA in the progeny. Plant J.. 72:84-8. AbstractWebsite
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.
Tungsuchat-Huang, T, Sinagawa-Garcia SR, Paredes-Lopez O, Maliga P.  2010.  Study of plastid genome stability in tobacco reveals that the loss of marker genes is more likely by gene conversion than by recombination between 34-bp loxP repeats. Plant Physiol.. 153:252-9. AbstractWebsite
In transformed tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) plastids, we flank the marker genes with recombinase target sites to facilitate their posttransformation excision. The P1 phage loxP sites are identical 34-bp direct repeats, whereas the phiC31 phage attB/attP sites are 54- and 215-bp sequences with partial homology within the 54-bp region. Deletions in the plastid genome are known to occur by recombination between directly repeated sequences. Our objective was to test whether or not the marker genes may be lost by homologous recombination via the directly repeated target sites in the absence of site-specific recombinases. The sequence between the target sites was the bar(au) gene that causes a golden-yellow (aurea) leaf color, so that the loss of the bar(au) gene can be readily detected by the appearance of green sectors. We report here that transplastomes carrying the bar(au) gene marker between recombinase target sites are relatively stable because no green sectors were detected in approximately 36,000 seedlings (Nt-pSS33 lines) carrying attB/attP-flanked bar(au) gene and in approximately 38,000 seedlings (Nt-pSS42 lines) carrying loxP-flanked bar(au) gene. Exceptions were six uniformly green plants in the Nt-pSS42-7A progeny. Sequencing the region of plastid DNA that may derive from the vector indicated that the bar(au) gene in the six green plants was lost by gene conversion using wild-type plastid DNA as template rather than by deletion via directly repeated loxP sites. Thus, the recombinase target sites incorporated in the plastid genome for marker gene excisions are too short to mediate the loss of marker genes by homologous recombination at a measurable frequency.
Tungsuchat-Huang, T, Slivinski KM, Sinagawa-Garcia SR, Maliga P.  2011.  Visual spectinomycin resistance (aadA(au)) gene for facile identification of transplastomic sectors in tobacco leaves. Plant Mol. Biol.. 76:453-61. AbstractWebsite
Identification of a genetically stable Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco) plant with a uniform population of transformed plastid genomes (ptDNA) takes two cycles of plant regeneration from chimeric leaves and analysis of multiple shoots by Southern probing in each cycle. Visual detection of transgenic sectors facilitates identification of transformed shoots in the greenhouse, complementing repeated cycles of blind purification in culture. In addition, it provides a tool to monitor the maintenance of transplastomic state. Our current visual marker system requires two genes: the aurea bar (bar(au)) gene that confers a golden leaf phenotype and a spectinomycin resistance (aadA) gene that is necessary for the introduction of the bar(au) gene in the plastid genome. We developed a novel aadA gene that fulfills both functions: it is a conventional selectable aadA gene in culture, and allows detection of transplastomic sectors in the greenhouse by leaf color. Common causes of pigment deficiency in leaves are mutations in photosynthetic genes, which affect chlorophyll accumulation. We use a different approach to achieve pigment deficiency: post-transcriptional interference with the expression of the clpP1 plastid gene by aurea aadA(au) transgene. This interference produces plants with reduced growth and a distinct color, but maintains a wild-type gene set and the capacity for photosynthesis. Importantly, when the aurea gene is removed, green pigmentation and normal growth rate are restored. Because the aurea plants are viable, the new aadA(au) genes are useful to query rare events in large populations and for in planta manipulation of the plastid genome.
Tungsuchat-Huang, T, Maliga P.  2012.  Visual marker and Agrobacterium-delivered recombinase enable the manipulation of the plastid genome in greenhouse-grown tobacco plants. Plant J.. 70:717-25. AbstractWebsite
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.