, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 243-249

Prevention of the flowering of a tree, silver birch

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Abstract

Genetic modification of trees presents great advantages but it is hampered by the possible spread of introduced genes to native populations. However, the spread would be prevented if the modified trees would be sterile. We have previously shown that the induction of sterility by the prevention of flowering is possible in tobacco and Arabidopsis by introducing a gene construct composed of the ribonuclease gene BARNASE ligated to the flower-specific promoter of the birch gene BpMADS1. In the present study, we test this gene construct in silver birch (Betula pendula Roth). When this gene construct was introduced into very early-flowering birch clones, 81 kanamycin resistant lines were obtained. In 38 lines, the vegetative development was disturbed, e.g., the leaves were small and the plants were short and bushy or the growth of plants was weak. More importantly, in 7 other lines no male inflorescences formed or they aborted early. If male inflorescences were formed, they did not contain any stamens. The initial growth of these lines was similar to the non-transgenic control lines. Later, however, the growth of the non-flowering lines differed from that of the controls in showing some dichotomic branching and a reduced number of branches. Preliminary results showed that the gene construct can prevent the development of female inflorescences as well. The results show clearly that BpMADS1::BARNASE can prevent the flowering in a tree but the prevention of flowering may cause some side effects. Studies with ordinary birch clones will show whether the side effects are a property of the early flowering clones or all birches.