, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 81-93

Arabidopsis thaliana small subunit leader and transit peptide enhance the expression ofBacillus thuringiensis proteins in transgenic plants

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The expression of the modified gene for a truncated form of thecryIA(c) gene, encoding the insecticidal portion of the lepidopteran-active CryIA(c) protein fromBacillus thuringiensis var.kurstaki (B.t.k.) HD73, under control of theArabidopsis thaliana ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase (Rubisco) small subunitats1A promoter with and without its associated transit peptide was analyzed in transgenic tobacco plants. Examination of leaf tissue revealed that theats1A promoter with its transit peptide sequence fused to the truncated CryIA(c) protein provided a 10-fold to 20-fold increase incryIA(c) mRNA and protein levels compared to gene constructs in which the cauliflower mosaic virus 35S promoter with a duplication of the enhancer region (CaMV-En35S) was used to express the samecryIA(c) gene. Transient expression assays in tobacco protoplasts and the whole plant results support the conclusion that the transit peptide plus untranslated sequences upstream of that region are both required for the increase in expression of the CryIA(c) protein. Furthermore, the CaMV-En35S promoter can be used with theArabidopsis ats1A untranslated leader and transit peptide to increase expression of this protein. While subcellular fractionation revealed that the truncated CryIA(c) protein fused to theats1A transit peptide is located in the chloroplast, the increase in gene expression is independent of targeting of the CryIA(c) protein to the chloroplast. The results reported here provide new insight into the role of 5′ untranslated leader sequences and translational fusions to increase heterologous gene expression, and they demonstrate the utility of this approach in the development of insect-resistant crops.