, Volume 105, Issue 6-7, pp 878-889

Transgene behaviour across two generations in a large random population of transgenic rice plants produced by particle bombardment

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Abstract.

The relationship between transgene copy number, rearrangement levels, inheritance patterns, expression levels, transgene stability and plant fertility was analysed in a random population of 95 independently transformed rice plant lines. This analysis has been conducted for both the selectable marker gene (aphIV) and the unselected reporter gene (gusA), in the presence or absence of flanking Matrix Attachment Regions (MARs) in order to develop a better understanding of transgene behaviour in a population of transgenic rice plants created by particle bombardment. In the first generation (T0), all the independently transformed plant lines contained and expressed the aphIV gene conferring resistance to hygromycin, but only 87% of the lines were co-transformed with the unselected gusA marker gene. Both transgenes seemed to be expressed independently. Most lines exhibited complex transgene rearrangements as well as an intact transgene expression unit for both aphIV and gusA transgenes. Transgene copy number was proportional to the quantity of DNA used during bombardment. In T0 plants, high gusA copy number significantly decreased GUS expression levels but there was no correlation between expression level and transgene copy number across the entire population of lines. Four main factors impaired transgene expression in primary transgenic plants (T0) and their progeny (T1): (1) absence of transgene expression in T0 plants (41% of lines), (2) sterility of T0 plants (28% of lines), (3) non-transmission of intact transgenes to some or all progenies (at least 14% of lines), and (4) silencing of transgene expression in progeny plants (10% of lines). Transgene stability was significantly related to differences in transgene structure and expression levels. The presence of Rb7 MARs flanking the gusA expression unit had no effect on plant fertility or non-transmission of transgenes, but provided copy number-dependent expression of the transgene and improved expression levels and stability over two generations. Overall, only 7% of the plant lines without MARs and 17% of the lines with MARs initially generated, exhibited stable transgene expression over two generations.

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