Molecular and cellular evidence of chimaeric tissues in primary transgenics and elimination of chimaerism through improved selection protocols

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Transgenic plants of strawberry cultivar Totem were developed by Agrobacterium-mediated transformation using a plasmid vector containing gus and nptII genes. Parallel experiments were carried out with and without repeated subculturing (iterative cultures) for generation of transgenic shoots on selection medium. The selection levels in the non-iterative pathway were kept constant, while in the iterative protocol, stepwise increase of selection pressure was applied at different stages of tissue growth. Rooted transgenic plants obtained via both protocols were outplanted in soil. Random leaf samples of greenhouse-grown transgenics were analysed for the presence of gus gene sequences by Southern hybridization as well as gus expression on leaf and petiole tissues by X-Gluc histological assay. Random leaf samples analysed from individual transgenic events developed under iterative culture were positive for the gus insert as verified by Southern analysis confirming the presence of transgenes and lack of chimaeras. Leaf samples of the transgenic events from the non-iterative protocol were either positive or negative on Southern analysis indicating the chimaeric nature of the transgenic plants. The absence of gus sequences in the transgenic plants grown under the non-iterative protocol reinforced the necessity of iterative cultures along with stepwise increase in selection levels for generating non-chimaeric transgenics in strawberry. The gus expression was highly variable, irrespective of the iterative or non-iterative protocol used for transformation. We conclude that strawberry is highly prone to develop chimaeric transgenics if derived from primary regenerants and that the iterative culture technique effectively converts chimaeras to pure line transgenic plants.

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