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.
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.