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.
We fully sequenced four and partially sequenced six additional plastid genomes of the model legume Medicago truncatula. Three accessions, Jemalong 2HA, Borung and Paraggio, belong to ssp. truncatula, and R108 to ssp. tricycla. We report here that the R108 ptDNA has a ∼45-kb inversion compared with the ptDNA in ssp. truncatula, mediated by a short, imperfect repeat. DNA gel blot analyses of seven additional ssp. tricycla accessions detected only one of the two alternative genome arrangements, represented by three and four accessions each. Furthermore, we found a variable number of repeats in the essential accD and ycf1 coding regions. The repeats within accD are recombinationally active, yielding variable-length insertions and deletions in the central part of the coding region. The length of ACCD was distinct in each of the 10 sequenced ecotypes, ranging between 650 and 796 amino acids. The repeats in the ycf1 coding region are also recombinationally active, yielding short indels in 10 regions of the reading frames. Thus, the plastid genome variability we report here could be linked to repeat-mediated genome rearrangements. However, the rate of recombination was sufficiently low, so that no heterogeneity of ptDNA could be observed in populations maintained by single-seed descent.