, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 185-188

Controlling Transgene Escape in GM Creeping Bentgrass

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Trait improvement of turfgrass through genetic engineering is important to the turfgrass industry and the environment. However, the possible transgene escape to wild and non-transformed species raises ecological and commercial concerns. Male sterility provides an effective way for interrupting gene flow. We have designed and synthesized two chimeric gene constructs consisting of a rice tapetum-specific promoter (TAP) fused to either a ribonuclease gene barnase, or the antisense of a rice tapetum-specific gene rts. Both constructs were linked to the bar gene for selection by resistance to the herbicide glufosinate. Agrobacterium-mediated transformation of creeping bentgrass (cv Penn A-4) with both constructs resulted in herbicide-resistant transgenic plants that were also 100% pollen sterile. Mendelian segregation of herbicide resistance and male sterility was observed in T1 progeny derived from crosses with wild-type plants. Controlled self- and cross-pollination studies showed no gene transfer to non-transgenic plants from male-sterile transgenic plants. Thus, male sterility can serve as an important tool to control transgene escape in bentgrass, facilitating the application of genetic engineering in producing environmentally responsible turfgrass with enhanced traits. It also provides a tool to control gene flow in other perennial species using transgenic technology.