, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 305-327

Particle bombardment and the genetic enhancement of crops: myths and realities

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Abstract

DNA transfer by particle bombardment makes use of physical processes to achieve the transformation of crop plants. There is no dependence on bacteria, so the limitations inherent in organisms such as Agrobacterium tumefaciens do not apply. The absence of biological constraints, at least until DNA has entered the plant cell, means that particle bombardment is a versatile and effective transformation method, not limited by cell type, species or genotype. There are no intrinsic vector requirements so transgenes of any size and arrangement can be introduced, and multiple gene cotransformation is straightforward. The perceived disadvantages of particle bombardment compared to Agrobacterium-mediated transformation, i.e. the tendency to generate large transgene arrays containing rearranged and broken transgene copies, are not borne out by the recent detailed structural analysis of transgene loci produced by each of the methods. There is also little evidence for major differences in the levels of transgene instability and silencing when these transformation methods are compared in agriculturally important cereals and legumes, and other non-model systems. Indeed, a major advantage of particle bombardment is that the delivered DNA can be manipulated to influence the quality and structure of the resultant transgene loci. This has been demonstrated in recently reported strategies that favor the recovery of transgenic plants containing intact, single-copy integration events, and demonstrating high-level transgene expression. At the current time, particle bombardment is the most efficient way to achieve plastid transformation in plants and is the only method so far used to achieve mitochondrial transformation. In this review, we discuss recent data highlighting the positive impact of particle bombardment on the genetic transformation of plants, focusing on the fate of exogenous DNA, its organization and its expression in the plant cell. We also discuss some of the most important applications of this technology including the deployment of transgenic plants under field conditions.