Plastids are semi-autonomous organelles with a relatively small (120-180 kb), highly polyploid genome present in 1,000 to 10,000 copies per cell. The best-known plastids, chloroplasts, convert sunlight into chemical energy. Plastid engineering, in contrast to nuclear engineering, offers higher protein yields, the opportunity to express several genes controlling complex traits, and natural containment that prevents transgene flow via pollen. We have developed protocols for transformation of the tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) plastid genome, efficient post-transformation excision of the marker genes, and high-level expression of recombinant proteins.
Our current research interests are development of efficient plastid transformation protocols in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and the related crop Brassica napus. We are also interested in regulating plastid transgene expression in non-green tissues using PPR RNA binding proteins. Our model system is the potato tuber, where we express the GFP reporter gene in potato amyloplasts.
Efficient plastid transformation in Arabidopsis
Yu, Q., Lutz, K.A. and Maliga, P. (2017) Plant Physiol. 175: 186-193.
Cell-to cell movement of mitochondria in plants
Gurdon, C., Svab, Z., Feng, Y. Kumar, D., and P. Maliga, P. (2016) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 113: 3395-400.
Cell-to-cell movement of plastids in plants
Visual marker and Agrobacterium-delivered recombinase enable the manipulation of the plastid genome in greenhouse-grown tobacco plants
Tungsuchat-Huang, T. & Maliga, P. (2012) Plant J. 70: 717-725.
Plastid biotechnology: food, fuel and medicine for the 21st century
Maliga, P. and Bock, R. (2011) Plant Physiol. 155: 1501-1510.
Pal Maliga is Distinguished Professor of Plant Biology at Rutgers University. He also holds 17 patents and received the 2011 “Inventor of the Year” award from the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame, and the 2016 Lawrence Bogorad Award for Excellence in Plant Biology Research from the American Society of Plant Biologists. He obtained an MS degree at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) in Budapest and a PhD at József Attila University (JATE) in Szeged, Hungary.
Since at Rutgers his research group developed methods for the stable transformation of land plant chloroplast genomes. Chloroplast genome engineering in higher plants has led to an explosion of research concerning the chloroplast genome’s role in photosynthesis, functional analysis of plastid genes by reverse genetics, and mechanisms of plastid gene regulation.
His current research interests are tissue specific regulation of plastid transgene expression using PPR RNA binding proteins and biotechnological applications of plastid transformation in Arabidopsis and Brassica.