Expression of antisense chalcone synthase RNA in transgenic hybrid walnut microcuttings. Effect on flavonoid content and rooting ability

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Abstract

Walnut somatic embryos (Juglans nigra × Juglans regia) were transformed with a vector containing a neomycin phosphotransferase II, a β-glucuronidase and an antisense chalcone synthase (chs) gene. This antisense construct included a 400 bp cDNA fragment of a walnut chs gene under the control of the duplicated CaMV-35S promoter. Molecular, biochemical and biological characterizations were performed both on transformed embryos propagated by secondary somatic embryogenesis and on microshoots developed by in vitro culture of embryonic epicotyls from somatic embryos. Thirteen transformed lines with the vector containing the antisense chs gene, one line with only the gus and nptII genes and one untransformed line were maintained in tissue culture. Six of the antisense lines were shown to be flavonoid-deficient. They exhibited a strongly reduced expression of chs genes, very low chalcone synthase activity and no detectable amounts of quercitrin, myricitrin, flavane-3-ols and proanthocyanidins in stems. Rooting tests showed that decreased flavonoid content in stems of antisense chs transformed lines was associated with enhanced adventitious root formation. Free auxin and conjugated auxin contents were determined during the latter phase of the micropropagation, and no variations were detected between control and antisense chs transformed lines. The in vitro plants developed a large basal callus and apical necrosis upon auxinic induction and the transformed lines highly deficient in flavonoids were more sensitive to exogenous application of indolebutyric acid (IBA).

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