Publications

Journal Article
Lutz, KA, Maliga P.  2007.  Transformation of the plastid genome to study RNA editing. Methods in Enzymology. 424:501-18. AbstractWebsite
In this chapter we provide an overview of cytosine-to-uridine (C-to-U) RNA editing in the plastids of higher plants. Particular emphasis will be placed on the role plastid transformation played in understanding the editing process. We discuss how plastid transformation enabled identification of mRNA cis elements for editing and gave the first insight into the role of editing trans factors. The introduction will be followed by a protocol for plastid transformation, including vector design employed to identify editing cis elements. We also discuss how to test RNA editing in vivo by cDNA sequencing. At the end, we summarize the status of the field and outline future directions.
Lenzi, P, Scotti N, Alagna F, Tornesello ML, Pompa A, Vitale A, De Stradis A, Monti L, Grillo S, Buonaguro FM et al..  2008.  Translational fusion of chloroplast-expressed human papillomavirus type 16 L1 capsid protein enhances antigen accumulation in transplastomic tobacco. Transgenic Research. 17:1091-102. AbstractWebsite
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the causal agent of cervical cancer, one of the most common causes of death for women. The major capsid L1 protein self-assembles in Virus Like Particles (VLPs), which are highly immunogenic and suitable for vaccine production. In this study, a plastid transformation approach was assessed in order to produce a plant-based HPV-16 L1 vaccine. Transplastomic plants were obtained after transformation with vectors carrying a chimeric gene encoding the L1 protein either as the native viral (L1(v) gene) or a synthetic sequence optimized for expression in plant plastids (L1(pt) gene) under control of plastid expression signals. The L1 mRNA was detected in plastids and the L1 antigen accumulated up to 1.5% total leaf proteins only when vectors included the 5'-UTR and a short N-terminal coding segment (Downstream Box) of a plastid gene. The half-life of the engineered L1 protein, determined by pulse-chase experiments, is at least 8 h. Formation of immunogenic VLPs in chloroplasts was confirmed by capture ELISA assay using antibodies recognizing conformational epitopes and by electron microscopy.
Lutz, KA, Azhagiri A, Maliga P.  2011.  Transplastomics in Arabidopsis: progress toward developing an efficient method. Methods in Molecular Biology. 774:133-47. AbstractWebsite
Protocols developed for plastome engineering in Nicotiana tabacum rely on biolistic delivery of the transforming DNA to chloroplasts in intact leaf tissue; integration of the foreign DNA into the plastid genome by homologous recombination via flanking plastid DNA (ptDNA) targeting regions; and gradual dilution of non-transformed ptDNA during cultivation in vitro. Plastid transformation in Arabidopsis was obtained by combining the tobacco leaf transformation protocol with Arabidopsis-specific tissue culture and plant regeneration protocols. Because the leaf cells in Arabidopsis are polyploid, this protocol yielded sterile plants. Meristematic cells in a shoot apex or cells of a developing embryo are diploid. Therefore, we developed a regulated embryogenic root culture system that will generate diploid tissue for plastid transformation. This embryogenic culture system is created by steroid-inducible expression of the BABY BOOM transcription factor. Plastid transformation in Arabidopsis will enable the probing of plastid gene function, and the characterization of posttranscriptional mechanisms of gene regulation and the regulatory interactions of plastid and nuclear genes.
Gurdon, C, Maliga P.  2014.  Two distinct plastid genome configurations and unprecedented intraspecies length variation in the accD coding region in Medicago truncatula. DNA Reserach. 21:inpress. AbstractWebsite
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.
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.