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1.  Sensitivity of a real-time PCR method for the detection of transgenes in a mixture of transgenic and non-transgenic seeds of papaya (Carica papaya L.) 
BMC Biotechnology  2013;13:69.
Background
Genetically engineered (GE) ringspot virus-resistant papaya cultivars ‘Rainbow’ and ‘SunUp’ have been grown in Hawai’i for over 10 years. In Hawai’i, the introduction of GE papayas into regions where non-GE cultivars are grown and where feral non-GE papayas exist have been accompanied with concerns associated with transgene flow. Of particular concern is the possibility of transgenic seeds being found in non-GE papaya fruits via cross-pollination. Development of high-throughput methods to reliably detect the adventitious presence of such transgenic material would benefit both the scientific and regulatory communities.
Results
We assessed the accuracy of using conventional qualitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) as well as real-time PCR-based assays to quantify the presence of transgenic DNA from bulk samples of non-GE papaya seeds. In this study, an optimized method of extracting high quality DNA from dry seeds of papaya was standardized. A reliable, sensitive real-time PCR method for detecting and quantifying viral coat protein (cp) transgenes in bulk seed samples utilizing the endogenous papain gene is presented. Quantification range was from 0.01 to 100 ng/μl of GE-papaya DNA template with a detection limit as low as 0.01% (10 pg). To test this system, we simulated transgene flow using known quantities of GE and non-GE DNA and determined that 0.038% (38 pg) GE papaya DNA could be detected using real-time PCR. We also validated this system by extracting DNA from known ratios of GE seeds to non-GE seeds of papaya followed by real-time PCR detection and observed a reliable detection limit of 0.4%.
Conclusions
This method for the quick and sensitive detection of transgenes in bulked papaya seed lots using conventional as well as real-time PCR-based methods will benefit numerous stakeholders. In particular, this method could be utilized to screen selected fruits from maternal non-GE papaya trees in Hawai’i for the presence of transgenic seed at typical regulatory threshold levels. Incorporation of subtle differences in primers and probes for variations in cp worldwide should allow this method to be utilized elsewhere when and if deregulation of transgenic papaya occurs.
doi:10.1186/1472-6750-13-69
PMCID: PMC3766677  PMID: 24004548
Coat protein (CP); Genetically-engineered; Papain; Quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR); Seeds; Transgene; Virus resistance
2.  Assessing the bioconfinement potential of a Nicotiana hybrid platform for use in plant molecular farming applications 
BMC Biotechnology  2013;13:63.
Background
The introduction of pharmaceutical traits in tobacco for commercial production could benefit from the utilization of a transgene bioconfinement system. It has been observed that interspecific F1Nicotiana hybrids (Nicotiana tabacum × Nicotiana glauca) are sterile and thus proposed that hybrids could be suitable bioconfined hosts for biomanufacturing. We genetically tagged hybrids with green fluorescent protein (GFP), which was used as a visual marker to enable gene flow tracking and quantification for field and greenhouse studies. GFP was used as a useful proxy for pharmaceutical transgenes.
Results
Analysis of DNA content revealed significant genomic downsizing of the hybrid relative to that of N. tabacum. Hybrid pollen was capable of germination in vitro, albeit with a very low frequency and with significant differences between plants. In two field experiments, one each in Tennessee and Kentucky, we detected outcrossing at only one location (Tennessee) at 1.4%. Additionally, from 50 hybrid plants at each field site, formation of 84 and 16 seed was observed, respectively. Similar conclusions about hybrid fertility were drawn from greenhouse crosses. In terms of above-ground biomass, the hybrid yield was not significantly different than that of N. tabacum in the field.
Conclusion
N. tabacum × N. glauca hybrids show potential to contribute to a bioconfinement- and biomanufacturing host system. Hybrids exhibit extremely low fertility with no difference of green biomass yields relative to N. tabacum. In addition, hybrids are morphologically distinguishable from tobacco allowing for identity preservation. This hybrid system for biomanufacturing would optimally be used where N. glauca is not present and in physical isolation of N. tabacum production to provide total bioconfinement.
doi:10.1186/1472-6750-13-63
PMCID: PMC3750662  PMID: 23914736
Gene flow; Male-sterility; Pharming; Bioconfinement; Nicotiana; Green fluorescent protein (GFP); Plant-made-pharmaceuticals (PMPs)
3.  Less is more: strategies to remove marker genes from transgenic plants 
BMC Biotechnology  2013;13:36.
Selectable marker genes (SMGs) and selection agents are useful tools in the production of transgenic plants by selecting transformed cells from a matrix consisting of mostly untransformed cells. Most SMGs express protein products that confer antibiotic- or herbicide resistance traits, and typically reside in the end product of genetically-modified (GM) plants. The presence of these genes in GM plants, and subsequently in food, feed and the environment, are of concern and subject to special government regulation in many countries. The presence of SMGs in GM plants might also, in some cases, result in a metabolic burden for the host plants. Their use also prevents the re-use of the same SMG when a second transformation scheme is needed to be performed on the transgenic host. In recent years, several strategies have been developed to remove SMGs from GM products while retaining the transgenes of interest. This review describes the existing strategies for SMG removal, including the implementation of site specific recombination systems, TALENs and ZFNs. This review discusses the advantages and disadvantages of existing SMG-removal strategies and explores possible future research directions for SMG removal including emerging technologies for increased precision for genome modification.
doi:10.1186/1472-6750-13-36
PMCID: PMC3689633  PMID: 23617583
Biosafety; Clean-gene technology; Co-transformation; Homologous recombination; Intra-chromosomal recombination; Marker-free; Meganuclease; Negative selection; Site-specific recombination; TAL effector nucleases; Transposons; Zinc finger nuclease
4.  Very bright orange fluorescent plants: endoplasmic reticulum targeting of orange fluorescent proteins as visual reporters in transgenic plants 
BMC Biotechnology  2012;12:17.
Background
The expression of fluorescent protein (FP) genes as real-time visual markers, both transiently and stably, has revolutionized plant biotechnology. A palette of colors of FPs is now available for use, but the diversity has generally been underutilized in plant biotechnology. Because of the green and far-red autofluorescent properties of many plant tissues and the FPs themselves, red and orange FPs (RFPs, and OFPs, respectfully) appear to be the colors with maximum utility in plant biotechnology. Within the color palette OFPs have emerged as the brightest FP markers in the visible spectra. This study compares several native, near-native and modified OFPs for their “brightness” and fluorescence, therefore, their usability as marker genes in transgenic plant tissues.
Results
The OFPs DsRed2, tdTomato, mOrange and pporRFP were all expressed under the control of the CaMV 35S promoter in agroinfiltration-mediated transient assays in Nicotiana benthamiana. Each of these, as well as endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-targeted versions, were stably expressed in transgenic Nicotiana tabacum and Arabidopsis thaliana. Congruent results were observed between transient and stable assays. Our results demonstrated that there are several adequate OFP genes available for plant transformation, including the new pporRFP, an unaltered tetramer from the hard coral Porites porites. When the tandem dimer tdTomato and the monomeric mOrange were targeted to the ER, dramatic, ca. 3-fold, increase in plant fluorescence was observed.
Conclusions
From our empirical data, and a search of the literature, it appears that tdTomato-ER and mOrange-ER are the two highest fluorescing FPs available as reporters for transgenic plants. The pporRFP is a brightly fluorescing tetramer, but all tetramer FPs are far less bright than the ER-targeted monomers we report here.
doi:10.1186/1472-6750-12-17
PMCID: PMC3443454  PMID: 22554231
Endoplasmic reticulum targeting; Fluorescent proteins; GFP; Marker genes; OFP; Orange fluorescent protein; Reporter genes; RFP; Subcellular localization; Transgenic plants; Visual markers
5.  Rapid in vivo analysis of synthetic promoters for plant pathogen phytosensing 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:108.
Background
We aimed to engineer transgenic plants for the purpose of early detection of plant pathogen infection, which was accomplished by employing synthetic pathogen inducible promoters fused to reporter genes for altered phenotypes in response to the pathogen infection. Toward this end, a number of synthetic promoters consisting of inducible regulatory elements fused to a red fluorescent protein (RFP) reporter were constructed for use in phytosensing.
Results
For rapid analysis, an Agrobacterium-mediated transient expression assay was evaluated, then utilized to assess the inducibility of each synthetic promoter construct in vivo. Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum cv. Xanthi) leaves were infiltrated with Agrobacterium harboring the individual synthetic promoter-reporter constructs. The infiltrated tobacco leaves were re-infiltrated with biotic (bacterial pathogens) or abiotic (plant defense signal molecules salicylic acid, ethylene and methyl jasmonate) agents 24 and 48 hours after initial agroinfiltration, followed by RFP measurements at relevant time points after treatment. These analyses indicated that the synthetic promoter constructs were capable of conferring the inducibility of the RFP reporter in response to appropriate phytohormones and bacterial pathogens, accordingly.
Conclusions
These observations demonstrate that the Agrobacterium-mediated transient expression is an efficient method for in vivo assays of promoter constructs in less than one week. Our results provide the opportunity to gain further insights into the versatility of the expression system as a potential tool for high-throughput in planta expression screening prior to generating stably transgenic plants for pathogen phytosensing. This system could also be utilized for temporary phytosensing; e.g., not requiring stably transgenic plants.
doi:10.1186/1472-6750-11-108
PMCID: PMC3247077  PMID: 22093754
6.  Genetic load and transgenic mitigating genes in transgenic Brassica rapa (field mustard) × Brassica napus (oilseed rape) hybrid populations 
BMC Biotechnology  2009;9:93.
Background
One theoretical explanation for the relatively poor performance of Brassica rapa (weed) × Brassica napus (crop) transgenic hybrids suggests that hybridization imparts a negative genetic load. Consequently, in hybrids genetic load could overshadow any benefits of fitness enhancing transgenes and become the limiting factor in transgenic hybrid persistence. Two types of genetic load were analyzed in this study: random/linkage-derived genetic load, and directly incorporated genetic load using a transgenic mitigation (TM) strategy. In order to measure the effects of random genetic load, hybrid productivity (seed yield and biomass) was correlated with crop- and weed-specific AFLP genomic markers. This portion of the study was designed to answer whether or not weed × transgenic crop hybrids possessing more crop genes were less competitive than hybrids containing fewer crop genes. The effects of directly incorporated genetic load (TM) were analyzed through transgene persistence data. TM strategies are proposed to decrease transgene persistence if gene flow and subsequent transgene introgression to a wild host were to occur.
Results
In the absence of interspecific competition, transgenic weed × crop hybrids benefited from having more crop-specific alleles. There was a positive correlation between performance and number of B. napus crop-specific AFLP markers [seed yield vs. marker number (r = 0.54, P = 0.0003) and vegetative dry biomass vs. marker number (r = 0.44, P = 0.005)]. However under interspecific competition with wheat or more weed-like conditions (i.e. representing a situation where hybrid plants emerge as volunteer weeds in subsequent cropping systems), there was a positive correlation between the number of B. rapa weed-specific AFLP markers and seed yield (r = 0.70, P = 0.0001), although no such correlation was detected for vegetative biomass. When genetic load was directly incorporated into the hybrid genome, by inserting a fitness-mitigating dwarfing gene that that is beneficial for crops but deleterious for weeds (a transgene mitigation measure), there was a dramatic decrease in the number of transgenic hybrid progeny persisting in the population.
Conclusion
The effects of genetic load of crop and in some situations, weed alleles might be beneficial under certain environmental conditions. However, when genetic load was directly incorporated into transgenic events, e.g., using a TM construct, the number of transgenic hybrids and persistence in weedy genomic backgrounds was significantly decreased.
doi:10.1186/1472-6750-9-93
PMCID: PMC2780409  PMID: 19878583

Results 1-6 (6)