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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.
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.