Cre/lox-mediated marker gene excision in transgenic maize (Zea mays L.) plants
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- Zhang, W., Subbarao, S., Addae, P. et al. Theor Appl Genet (2003) 107: 1157. doi:10.1007/s00122-003-1368-z
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After the initial transformation and tissue culture process is complete, selectable marker genes, which are used in virtually all transformation approaches, are not required for the expression of the gene of interest in the transgenic plants. There are several advantages to removing the selectable marker gene after it is no longer needed, such as enabling the reuse of selectable markers and simplifying transgene arrays. We have tested the Cre/lox system from bacteriophage P1 for its ability to precisely excise stably integrated marker genes from chromosomes in transgenic maize plants. Two strategies, crossing and autoexcision, have been tested and demonstrated. In the crossing strategy, plants expressing the Cre recombinase are crossed with plants bearing a transgene construct in which the selectable marker gene is flanked by directly repeated lox sites. Unlike previous reports in which incomplete somatic and germline excision were common, in our experiments complete somatic and germline marker gene excision occurred in the F1 plants from most crosses with multiple independent Cre and lox lines. In the autoexcision strategy, the cre gene, under the control of a heat shock-inducible promoter, is excised along with the nptII marker gene. Our results show that a transient heat shock treatment of primary transgenic callus is sufficient for inducing cre and excising the cre and nptII genes. Genetic segregation and molecular analysis confirmed that marker gene removal is precise, complete and stable. The autoexcision strategy provides a way of removing the selectable marker gene from callus or other tissues such as embryos and kernels.