, Volume 108, Issue 2, pp 315-320
Date: 25 Sep 2003

Low frequency transmission of a plastid-encoded trait in Setaria italica

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It has been claimed that engineering traits into the chloroplast will prevent transgene transmission by pollen, precluding transgene flow from crops. A Setaria italica (foxtail or birdseed millet) with chloroplast-inherited atrazine resistance (bearing a nuclear dominant red-leaf base marker) was crossed with five male-sterile yellow- or green-leafed herbicide susceptible lines. Chloroplast-inherited resistance was consistently pollen transmitted at a 3×10−4 frequency in >780,000 hybrid offspring. The nuclear marker segregated in the F2, but resistance did not segregate, as expected. Pollen transmission of plastome traits can only be detected using both large samples and selectable genetic markers. The risk of pollen transmission at this frequency would be several orders of magnitude greater than spontaneous nuclear-genome mutation-rates. Chloroplast transformation may be an unacceptable means of preventing transgene outflow, unless stacked with additional mechanisms such as mitigating genes and/or male sterility.

Communicated by R. Hagemann