, Volume 13, Issue 5, pp 475-485

Expression of cold-tolerant pyruvate, orthophosphate dikinase cDNA, and heterotetramer formation in transgenic maize plants

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Maize is a typical C4 plant of the NADP-malic enzyme type, and its high productivity is supported by the C4 photosynthetic cycle, which concentrates atmospheric CO2 in the leaves. The plant exhibits superior photosynthetic ability under high light and high temperature, but under cold conditions the photosynthetic rate is significantly reduced. Pyruvate orthophosphate dikinase (PPDK), a key enzyme of the C4 pathway in maize, loses its activity below about 12 °C by dissociation of the tetramer and it is considered as one possible cause of the reduction in the photosynthetic rate of maize at low temperatures. To improve the cold stability of the enzyme, we introduced a cold-tolerant PPDK cDNA isolated from Flaveria brownii into maize by Agrobacterium-mediated transformation. We obtained higher levels of expression by using a double intron cassette and a chimeric cDNA made from F. bidentis and F. brownii with a maximum content of 1 mg/g fresh weight. In leaves of transgenic maize, PPDK molecules produced from the transgene were detected in cold-tolerant homotetramers or in heterotetramers of intermediate cold susceptibility formed with the internal PPDK. Simultaneous introduction of an antisense gene for maize PPDK generated plants in which the ratio of heterolologous and endogenous PPDK was greatly improved. Arrhenius plot analysis of the enzyme extracted from one such plant revealed that the break point was shifted about 3 °C lower than that of the wild type.