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Thyssen, G, Svab Z, Maliga P.  2012.  Exceptional inheritance of plastids via pollen in Nicotiana sylvestris with no detectable paternal mitochondrial DNA in the progeny. Plant J.. 72:84-8. AbstractWebsite
Plastids and mitochondria, the DNA-containing cytoplasmic organelles, are maternally inherited in the majority of angiosperm species. Even in plants with strict maternal inheritance, exceptional paternal transmission of plastids has been observed. Our objective was to detect rare leakage of plastids via pollen in Nicotiana sylvestris and to determine if pollen transmission of plastids results in co-transmission of paternal mitochondria. As father plants, we used N. sylvestris plants with transgenic, selectable plastids and wild-type mitochondria. As mother plants, we used N. sylvestris plants with Nicotiana undulata cytoplasm, including the CMS-92 mitochondria that cause cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) by homeotic transformation of the stamens. We report here exceptional paternal plastid DNA in approximately 0.002% of N. sylvestris seedlings. However, we did not detect paternal mitochondrial DNA in any of the six plastid-transmission lines, suggesting independent transmission of the cytoplasmic organelles via pollen. When we used fertile N. sylvestris as mothers, we obtained eight fertile plastid transmission lines, which did not transmit their plastids via pollen at higher frequencies than their fathers. We discuss the implications for transgene containment and plant evolutionary histories inferred from cytoplasmic phylogenies.
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.
Tungsuchat-Huang, T, Sinagawa-Garcia SR, Paredes-Lopez O, Maliga P.  2010.  Study of plastid genome stability in tobacco reveals that the loss of marker genes is more likely by gene conversion than by recombination between 34-bp loxP repeats. Plant Physiol.. 153:252-9. AbstractWebsite
In transformed tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) plastids, we flank the marker genes with recombinase target sites to facilitate their posttransformation excision. The P1 phage loxP sites are identical 34-bp direct repeats, whereas the phiC31 phage attB/attP sites are 54- and 215-bp sequences with partial homology within the 54-bp region. Deletions in the plastid genome are known to occur by recombination between directly repeated sequences. Our objective was to test whether or not the marker genes may be lost by homologous recombination via the directly repeated target sites in the absence of site-specific recombinases. The sequence between the target sites was the bar(au) gene that causes a golden-yellow (aurea) leaf color, so that the loss of the bar(au) gene can be readily detected by the appearance of green sectors. We report here that transplastomes carrying the bar(au) gene marker between recombinase target sites are relatively stable because no green sectors were detected in approximately 36,000 seedlings (Nt-pSS33 lines) carrying attB/attP-flanked bar(au) gene and in approximately 38,000 seedlings (Nt-pSS42 lines) carrying loxP-flanked bar(au) gene. Exceptions were six uniformly green plants in the Nt-pSS42-7A progeny. Sequencing the region of plastid DNA that may derive from the vector indicated that the bar(au) gene in the six green plants was lost by gene conversion using wild-type plastid DNA as template rather than by deletion via directly repeated loxP sites. Thus, the recombinase target sites incorporated in the plastid genome for marker gene excisions are too short to mediate the loss of marker genes by homologous recombination at a measurable frequency.
Tungsuchat-Huang, T, Maliga P.  2014.  Plastid marker gene excision in greenhouse-grown tobacco by Agrobacterium-delivered Cre recombinase. Chloroplast Biotechnology. 1132:205-220. Abstract
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.
Wang, W, Zhang W, Wu Y, Maliga P, Messing J.  2015.  RNA Editing in Chloroplasts of Spirodela polyrhiza, an Aquatic Monocotelydonous Species. PLoS One. 10:e0140285. AbstractWebsite
RNA editing is the post-transcriptional conversion from C to U before translation, providing a unique feature in the regulation of gene expression. Here, we used a robust and efficient method based on RNA-seq from non-ribosomal total RNA to simultaneously measure chloroplast-gene expression and RNA editing efficiency in the Greater Duckweed, Spirodela polyrhiza, a species that provides a new reference for the phylogenetic studies of monocotyledonous plants. We identified 66 editing sites at the genome-wide level, with an average editing efficiency of 76%. We found that the expression levels of chloroplast genes were relatively constant, but 11 RNA editing sites show significant changes in editing efficiency, when fronds turn into turions. Thus, RNA editing efficiency contributes more to the yield of translatable transcripts than steady state mRNA levels. Comparison of RNA editing sites in coconut, Spirodela, maize, and rice suggests that RNA editing originated from a common ancestor.