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1.  Open field trial of genetically modified parthenocarpic tomato: seedlessness and fruit quality 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:32.
Parthenocarpic tomato lines transgenic for the DefH9-RI-iaaM gene have been cultivated under open field conditions to address some aspects of the equivalence of genetically modified (GM) fruit in comparison to controls (non-GM).
Under open field cultivation conditions, two tomato lines (UC 82) transgenic for the DefH9-RI-iaaM gene produced parthenocarpic fruits. DefH9-RI-iaaM fruits were either seedless or contained very few seeds. GM fruit quality, with the exception of a higher β-carotene level, did not show any difference, neither technological (colour, firmness, dry matter, °Brix, pH) nor chemical (titratable acidity, organic acids, lycopene, tomatine, total polyphenols and antioxidant capacity – TEAC), when compared to that of fruits from control line. Highly significant differences in quality traits exist between the tomato F1 commercial hybrid Allflesh and the three UC 82 genotypes tested, regardless of whether or not they are GM. Total yield per plant did not differ between GM and parental line UC 82. Fruit number was increased in GM lines, and GM fruit weight was decreased.
The use in the diet of fruits from a new line or variety introduces much greater changes than the consumption of GM fruits in comparison to its genetic background. Parthenocarpic fruits, produced under open field conditions, contained 10-fold less seeds than control fruits. Thus parthenocarpy caused by DefH9-RI-iaaM gene represents also a tool for mitigating GM seeds dispersal in the environment.
PMCID: PMC1361772  PMID: 16371162
2.  The defH9-iaaM auxin-synthesizing gene increases plant fecundity and fruit production in strawberry and raspberry 
BMC Biotechnology  2004;4:4.
The DefH9-iaaM gene fusion which is expressed specifically in placenta/ovules and promotes auxin-synthesis confers parthenocarpic fruit development to eggplant, tomato and tobacco. Transgenic DefH9-iaaM eggplants and tomatoes show increased fruit production due mainly to an improved fruit set. However, the weight of the fruits is also frequently increased.
DefH9-iaaM strawberry and raspberry plants grown under standard cultivation conditions show a significant increase in fruit number and size and fruit yield. In all three Rosaceae species tested, Fragaria vesca, Fragaria x ananassa and Rubus idaeus, DefH9-iaaM plants have an increased number of flowers per inflorescence and an increased number of inflorescences per plant. This results in an increased number of fruits per plant. Moreover, the weight and size of transgenic fruits was also increased. The increase in fruit yield was approximately 180% in cultivated strawberry, 140% in wild strawberry, and 100% in raspberry. The DefH9-iaaM gene is expressed in the flower buds of all three species. The total IAA (auxin) content of young flower buds of strawberry and raspberry expressing the DefH9-iaaM gene is increased in comparison to untransformed flower buds. The DefH9-iaaM gene promotes parthenocarpy in emasculated flowers of both strawberry and raspberry.
The DefH9-iaaM gene is expressed and biologically active in Rosaceae. The DefH9-iaaM gene can be used, under cultivation conditions that allow pollination and fertilization, to increase fruit productivity significantly in Rosaceae species. The finding that the DefH9-iaaM auxin-synthesizing gene increases the number of inflorescences per plant and the number of flowers per inflorescence indicates that auxin plays a role in plant fecundity in these three perennial Rosaceae species.
PMCID: PMC394336  PMID: 15113427
DefH9-iaaM; Flower; Fruit; Inflorescence; Raspberry; Strawberry
3.  Expression of self-complementary hairpin RNA under the control of the rolC promoter confers systemic disease resistance to plum pox virus without preventing local infection 
BMC Biotechnology  2003;3:7.
Homology-dependent selective degradation of RNA, or post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS), is involved in several biological phenomena, including adaptative defense mechanisms against plant viruses. Small interfering RNAs mediate the selective degradation of target RNA by guiding a multicomponent RNAse. Expression of self-complementary hairpin RNAs within two complementary regions separated by an intron elicits PTGS with high efficiency. Plum pox virus (PPV) is the etiological agent of sharka disease in Drupaceae, although it can also be transmitted to herbaceous species (e.g. Nicotiana benthamiana). Once inside the plant, PPV is transmitted via plasmodesmata from cell to cell, and at longer distances, via phloem. The rolC promoter drives expression in phloem cells. RolC expression is absent in both epidermal and mesophyll cells. The aim of the present study was to confer systemic disease resistance without preventing local viral infection.
In the ihprolC-PP197 gene (intron hair pin rolC PPV 197), a 197 bp sequence homologous to the PPV RNA genome (from base 134 to 330) was placed as two inverted repeats separated by the DNA sequence of the rolA intron. This hairpin construct is under the control of the rolC promoter.N. benthamiana plants transgenic for the ihprolC-PP197 gene contain siRNAs homologous to the 197 bp sequence. The transgenic progeny of ihprolC-PP197 plants are resistant to PPV systemic infection. Local infection is unaffected. Most (80%) transgenic plants are virus free and symptomless. Some plants (20%) contain virus in uninoculated apical leaves; however they show only mild symptoms of leaf mottling. PPV systemic resistance cosegregates with the ihprolC-PP197 transgene and was observed in progeny plants of all independent transgenic lines analyzed. SiRNAs of 23–25 nt homologous to the PPV sequence used in the ihprolC-PP197 construct were detected in transgenic plants before and after inoculation. Transitivity of siRNAs was observed in transgenic plants 6 weeks after viral inoculation.
The ihprolC-PP197 transgene confers systemic resistance to PPV disease in N. benthamiana. Local infection is unaffected. This transgene and/or similar constructs could be used to confer PPV resistance to fruit trees where systemic disease causes economic damage.
PMCID: PMC194883  PMID: 12823862
4.  Genetic transformation of Vitis vinifera via organogenesis 
BMC Biotechnology  2002;2:18.
Efficient transformation and regeneration methods are a priority for successful application of genetic engineering to vegetative propagated plants such as grape. The current methods for the production of transgenic grape plants are based on Agrobacterium-mediated transformation followed by regeneration from embryogenic callus. However, grape embryogenic calli are laborious to establish and the phenotype of the regenerated plants can be altered.
Transgenic grape plants (V. vinifera, table-grape cultivars Silcora and Thompson Seedless) were produced using a method based on regeneration via organogenesis. In vitro proliferating shoots were cultured in the presence of increasing concentrations of N6-benzyl adenine. The apical dome of the shoot was removed at each transplantation which, after three months, produced meristematic bulk tissue characterized by a strong capacity to differentiate adventitious shoots. Slices prepared from the meristematic bulk were used for Agrobacterium-mediated transformation of grape plants with the gene DefH9-iaaM. After rooting on kanamycin containing media and greenhouse acclimatization, transgenic plants were transferred to the field. At the end of the first year of field cultivation, DefH9-iaaM grape plants were phenotypically homogeneous and did not show any morphological alterations in vegetative growth. The expression of DefH9-iaaM gene was detected in transgenic flower buds of both cultivars.
The phenotypic homogeneity of the regenerated plants highlights the validity of this method for both propagation and genetic transformation of table grape cultivars. Expression of the DefH9-iaaM gene takes place in young flower buds of transgenic plants from both grape cultivars.
PMCID: PMC130035  PMID: 12354328
Vitis vinifera; meristem regeneration; genetic transformation; gene expression; DefH9-iaaM gene
5.  Genetically modified parthenocarpic eggplants: improved fruit productivity under both greenhouse and open field cultivation. 
BMC Biotechnology  2002;2:4.
Parthenocarpy, or fruit development in the absence of fertilization, has been genetically engineered in eggplant and in other horticultural species by using the DefH9-iaaM gene. The iaaM gene codes for tryptophan monoxygenase and confers auxin synthesis, while the DefH9 controlling regions drive expression of the gene specifically in the ovules and placenta. A previous greenhouse trial for winter production of genetically engineered (GM) parthenocarpic eggplants demonstrated a significant increase (an average of 33% increase) in fruit production concomitant with a reduction in cultivation costs.
GM parthenocarpic eggplants have been evaluated in three field trials. Two greenhouse spring trials have shown that these plants outyielded the corresponding untransformed genotypes, while a summer trial has shown that improved fruit productivity in GM eggplants can also be achieved in open field cultivation. Since the fruits were always seedless, the quality of GM eggplant fruits was improved as well. RT-PCR analysis demonstrated that the DefH9-iaaM gene is expressed during late stages of fruit development.
The DefH9-iaaM parthenocarpic gene is a biotechnological tool that enhances the agronomic value of all eggplant genotypes tested. The main advantages of DefH9-iaaM eggplants are: i) improved fruit productivity (at least 30–35%) under both greenhouse and open field cultivation; ii) production of good quality (marketable) fruits during different types of cultivation; iii) seedless fruit with improved quality. Such advantages have been achieved without the use of either male or female sterility genes.
PMCID: PMC101493  PMID: 11934354
6.  Optimisation of transgene action at the post-transcriptional level: high quality parthenocarpic fruits in industrial tomatoes 
BMC Biotechnology  2002;2:1.
Genetic engineering of parthenocarpy confers to horticultural plants the ability to produce fruits under environmental conditions that curtail fruit productivity and quality. The DefH9-iaaM transgene, whose predicted action is to confer auxin synthesis specifically in the placenta, ovules and derived tissues, has been shown to confer parthenocarpy to several plant species (tobacco, eggplant, tomato) and varieties.
UC82 tomato plants, a typical cultivar used by the processing industry, transgenic for the DefH9-iaaM gene produce parthenocarpic fruits that are malformed. UC82 plants transgenic for the DefH9-RI-iaaM, a DefH9-iaaM derivative gene modified in its 5'ULR by replacing 53 nucleotides immediately upstream of the AUG initiation codon with an 87 nucleotides-long sequence derived from the rolA intron sequence, produce parthenocarpic fruits of high quality. In an in vitro translation system, the iaaM mRNA, modified in its 5'ULR is translated 3–4 times less efficiently than the original transcript. An optimal expressivity of parthenocarpy correlates with a reduced transgene mRNA steady state level in DefH9-RI-iaaM flower buds in comparison to DefH9-iaaM flower buds. Consistent with the known function of the iaaM gene, flower buds transgenic for the DefH9-RI-iaaM gene contain ten times more IAA than control untransformed flower buds, but five times less than DefH9-iaaM flower buds.
By using an auxin biosynthesis transgene downregulated at the post-transcriptional level, an optimal expressivity of parthenocarpy has been achieved in a genetic background not suitable for the original transgene. Thus, the method allows the generation of a wider range of expressivity of the desired trait in transgenic plants.
PMCID: PMC65046  PMID: 11818033

Results 1-6 (6)