Producing low-caffeine tea through post-transcriptional silencing of caffeine synthase mRNA
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In this study, attempt has been made to produce a selected cultivar of tea with low-caffeine content using RNAi technology. The caffeine biosynthetic pathway in tea has been proposed to involve three N-methyltransferases such as xanthosine methyltransferase, 7-N-methylxanthine methyltransferase and 3, 7-dimethylxanthine methyltransferase. Last two steps of caffeine biosynthesis in tea have been known to be catalyzed by a bifunctional enzyme known as caffeine synthase. To suppress the caffeine synthesis in the selected tea [Camellia sinensis (L.) O. Kuntze] cv. Kangra jat, we isolated a partial fragment of caffeine synthase (CS) from the same cultivar and used to design RNAi construct (pFGC1008-CS). Somatic embryos were transformed with the developed construct using biolistic method. Transformed somatic embryos showed reduction in the levels of CS transcript expression as well as in caffeine content. Plants were regenerated from the transformed somatic embryos. Transgenic plants showed a significant suppression of CS transcript expression and also showed a reduction of 44–61% in caffeine and 46–67% in theobromine contents as compared to the controls. These results suggest that the RNAi construct developed here using a single partial fragment of CS gene reduced the expression of the targeted endogenous gene significantly. However, the reduction in theobromine content in addition to caffeine documented the involvement of this single CS in the catalysis of last two methyl transfer steps in caffeine biosynthesis of tea.
KeywordsCaffeine Caffeine synthase Camellia sinensis Gene silencing Somatic embryo Transformation
The authors thank Dr. Ashwani Pareek, Jawahar Lal Nehru University (New Delhi) for his generous help in making RNAi construct. This work was supported by the research grants from Department of Science and Technology (DST; Grant No GAP095) and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR; Grant No SIP003), Govt. of India, New Delhi. Prashant Mohanpuria is also thankful to CSIR for providing research fellowship in the form of SRF. The IHBT communication number for this article is 2202.
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