The protocol we report here is based on biolistic delivery of the transforming DNA to tobacco leaves, selection of transplastomic clones by spectinomycin resistance and regeneration of plants with uniformly transformed plastid genomes. Because the plastid genome of Nicotiana tabacum derives from Nicotiana sylvestris, and the two genomes are highly conserved, vectors developed for N. tabacum can be used in N. sylvestris. Also, the tissue culture responses of N. tabacum cv. Petit Havana and N. sylvestris accession TW137 are similar, allowing plastid engineering protocols developed for N. tabacum to be directly applied to N. sylvestris. However, the tissue culture protocol is applicable only in a subset of N. tabacum cultivars. Here we highlight differences between the protocols for the two species. We describe updated vectors targeting insertions in the unique and repeated regions of the plastid genome as well as systems for marker excision. The simpler genetics of the diploid N. sylvestris, as opposed to the allotetraploid N. tabacum, make it an attractive model for plastid transformation.
Uniform transformation of the thousands of plastid genome (ptDNA) copies in a cell is driven by selection for plastid markers. When each of the plastid genome copies is uniformly altered, the marker gene is no longer needed. Plastid markers have been efficiently excised by site-specific recombinases expressed from nuclear genes either by transforming tissue culture cells or introducing the genes by pollination. Here we describe a protocol for the excision of plastid marker genes directly in tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) plants by the Cre recombinase. Agrobacterium encoding the recombinase on its T-DNA is injected at an axillary bud site of a decapitated plant, forcing shoot regeneration at the injection site. The excised plastid marker, the bar au gene, confers a visual aurea leaf phenotype; thus marker excision via the flanking recombinase target sites is recognized by the restoration of normal green color of the leaves. The bar au marker-free plastids are transmitted through seed to the progeny. PCR and DNA gel blot (Southern) protocols to confirm transgene integration and plastid marker excision are also provided herein.