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1.  Isolation and functional characterization of a cotton ubiquitination-related promoter and 5'UTR that drives high levels of expression in root and flower tissues 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:115.
Background
Cotton (Gossypium spp.) is an important crop worldwide that provides raw material to 40% of the textile fiber industry. Important traits have been studied aiming the development of genetically modified crops including resistance to insect and diseases, and tolerance to drought, cold and herbicide. Therefore, the characterization of promoters and regulatory regions is also important to achieve high gene expression and/or a specific expression pattern. Commonly, genes involved in ubiquitination pathways are highly and differentially expressed. In this study, we analyzed the expression of a cotton ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme (E2) family member with no previous characterization.
Results
Nucleotide analysis revealed high identity with cotton E2 homologues. Multiple alignment showed a premature stop codon, which prevents the encoding of the conserved cysteine residue at the E2 active site, and an intron that is spliced in E2 homologues, but not in GhGDRP85. The GhGDRP85 gene is highly expressed in different organs of cotton plants, and has high transcript levels in roots. Its promoter (uceApro2) and the 5'UTR compose a regulatory region named uceA1.7, and were isolated from cotton and studied in Arabidopsis thaliana. uceA1.7 shows strong expression levels, equaling or surpassing the expression levels of CaMV35S. The uceA1.7 regulatory sequence drives GUS expression 7-fold higher in flowers, 2-fold in roots and at similar levels in leaves and stems. GUS expression levels are decreased 7- to 15-fold when its 5'UTR is absent in uceApro2.
Conclusions
uceA1.7 is a strong constitutive regulatory sequence composed of a promoter (uceApro2) and its 5'UTR that will be useful in genetic transformation of dicots, having high potential to drive high levels of transgene expression in crops, particularly for traits desirable in flower and root tissues.
doi:10.1186/1472-6750-11-115
PMCID: PMC3239415  PMID: 22115195
2.  Improving Cry8Ka toxin activity towards the cotton boll weevil (Anthonomus grandis) 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:85.
Background
The cotton boll weevil (Anthonomus grandis) is a serious insect-pest in the Americas, particularly in Brazil. The use of chemical or biological insect control is not effective against the cotton boll weevil because of its endophytic life style. Therefore, the use of biotechnological tools to produce insect-resistant transgenic plants represents an important strategy to reduce the damage to cotton plants caused by the boll weevil. The present study focuses on the identification of novel molecules that show improved toxicity against the cotton boll weevil. In vitro directed molecular evolution through DNA shuffling and phage display screening was applied to enhance the insecticidal activity of variants of the Cry8Ka1 protein of Bacillus thuringiensis.
Results
Bioassays carried out with A. grandis larvae revealed that the LC50 of the screened mutant Cry8Ka5 toxin was 3.15-fold higher than the wild-type Cry8Ka1 toxin. Homology modelling of Cry8Ka1 and the Cry8Ka5 mutant suggested that both proteins retained the typical three-domain Cry family structure. The mutated residues were located mostly in loops and appeared unlikely to interfere with molecular stability.
Conclusions
The improved toxicity of the Cry8Ka5 mutant obtained in this study will allow the generation of a transgenic cotton event with improved potential to control A. grandis.
doi:10.1186/1472-6750-11-85
PMCID: PMC3179717  PMID: 21906288
Anthonomus grandis; Bacillus thuringiensis; Cotton; DNA shuffling; Phage display; Molecular modeling
3.  α-Amylase inhibitor-1 gene from Phaseolus vulgaris expressed in Coffea arabica plants inhibits α-amylases from the coffee berry borer pest 
BMC Biotechnology  2010;10:44.
Background
Coffee is an important crop and is crucial to the economy of many developing countries, generating around US$70 billion per year. There are 115 species in the Coffea genus, but only two, C. arabica and C. canephora, are commercially cultivated. Coffee plants are attacked by many pathogens and insect-pests, which affect not only the production of coffee but also its grain quality, reducing the commercial value of the product. The main insect-pest, the coffee berry borer (Hypotheneumus hampei), is responsible for worldwide annual losses of around US$500 million. The coffee berry borer exclusively damages the coffee berries, and it is mainly controlled by organochlorine insecticides that are both toxic and carcinogenic. Unfortunately, natural resistance in the genus Coffea to H. hampei has not been documented. To overcome these problems, biotechnological strategies can be used to introduce an α-amylase inhibitor gene (α-AI1), which confers resistance against the coffee berry borer insect-pest, into C. arabica plants.
Results
We transformed C. arabica with the α-amylase inhibitor-1 gene (α-AI1) from the common bean, Phaseolus vulgaris, under control of the seed-specific phytohemagglutinin promoter (PHA-L). The presence of the α-AI1 gene in six regenerated transgenic T1 coffee plants was identified by PCR and Southern blotting. Immunoblotting and ELISA experiments using antibodies against α-AI1 inhibitor showed a maximum α-AI1 concentration of 0.29% in crude seed extracts. Inhibitory in vitro assays of the α-AI1 protein against H. hampei α-amylases in transgenic seed extracts showed up to 88% inhibition of enzyme activity.
Conclusions
This is the first report showing the production of transgenic coffee plants with the biotechnological potential to control the coffee berry borer, the most important insect-pest of crop coffee.
doi:10.1186/1472-6750-10-44
PMCID: PMC2914071  PMID: 20565807

Results 1-3 (3)