, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 165-180

Transposon-mediated generation of T-DNA- and marker-free rice plants expressing a Bt endotoxin gene

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Abstract

Transposon-mediated repositioning of transgenes is an attractive strategy to generate plants that are free of selectable markers and T-DNA inserts. By using a minimal number of transformation events a large number of transgene insertions in the genome can be obtained so as to benefit from position effects in the genome that can contribute to higher levels of expression. We constructed a Bacillus thuringiensis synthetic cry1B gene expressed under control of the maize ubiquitin promoter between minimal terminal inverted repeats of the maize Ac-Ds transposon system, which was cloned in the 5' untranslated sequence of a gfp gene used as an excision marker. The T-DNA also harboured the Ac transposase gene driven by the CaMV 35S promoter and the hph gene conferring resistance to the antibiotic hygromycin. Sixty-eight independent rice (Oryza sativa L.) transformants were regenerated and molecularly analysed revealing excision and reinsertion of the Ds-cry1B element in 37% and 25% respectively of the transformation events. Five independent transformants harbouring 2–4 reinserted Ds-Cry1B copies were analysed in the T1 progeny, revealing 0.2 to 1.4 new transpositions per plant. Out segregation of the cry1B gene from the T-DNA insertion site was observed in 17 T1 plants, representing 10 independent repositioning events without selection. Western analysis of leaf protein extracts of these plants revealed detectable Cry1B in all the plants indicating efficient expression of the transgene reinsertions. Stability of position and expression of the cry1B transgene was further confirmed in T2 progeny of T-DNA-free T1 plants. New T-DNA-free repositioning events were also identified in T2 progenies of T1 plants heterozygous for the T-DNA. Furthermore, preliminary whole plant bioassay of T-DNA-free lines challenged with striped stem borer larvae suggested that they are protected against SSB attacks. These results indicate that transposon mediated relocation of the gene of interest is a powerful method for generating T-DNA integration site-free transgenic plants and exploiting favourable position effects in the plant genome.