, Volume 23, Issue 6, pp 1125-1135
Date: 01 Jul 2009

Transgene stability and dispersal in forest trees

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Transgenics from several forest tree species, carrying a number of commercially important recombinant genes, have been produced, and are undergoing confined field trials in a number of countries. However, there are questions and issues regarding stability of transgene expression and transgene dispersal that need to be addressed in long-lived forest trees. Variation in transgene expression is not uncommon in the primary transformants in plants, and is undesirable as it requires screening a large number of transformants in order to select transgenic lines with acceptable levels of transgene expression. Therefore, the current focus of plant transformation is toward fine tuning of transgene expression and stability in the transgenic forest trees. Although a number of studies have reported a relatively stable transgene expression for several target traits, including herbicide resistance, insect resistance, and lignin modification, there was also some unintended transgene instability in the genetically modified (GM) forest trees. Transgene dispersal from GM trees to feral forest populations and their containment remain important biological and regulatory issues facing commercial release of GM trees. Containment of transgenes must be in place to effectively prevent escape of transgenic pollen, seed, and vegetative propagules in economically important GM forest trees before their commercialization. Therefore, it is important to devise innovative technologies in genetic engineering that lead to genetically stable transgenic trees not only for qualitative traits (herbicide resistance, insect resistance), but also for quantitative traits (accelerated growth, increased height, increased wood density), and also prevent escape of transgenes in the forest trees.

Communicated by F. Cánovas.