Extensive homologous recombination between introduced and native regulatory plastid DNA elements in transplastomic plants
Homologous recombination within plastids directs plastid genome transformation for foreign gene expression and study of plastid gene function. Though transgenes are generally efficiently targeted to their desired insertion site, unintended homologous recombination events have been observed during plastid transformation. To understand the nature and abundance of these recombination events, we analyzed transplastomic tobacco lines derived from three different plastid transformation vectors utilizing two different loci for foreign gene insertion. Two unintended recombinant plastid DNA species were formed from each regulatory plastid DNA element included in the transformation vector. Some of these recombinant DNA species accumulated to as much as 10–60% of the amount of the desired integrated transgenic sequence in T0 plants. Some of the recombinant DNA species undergo further, “secondary” recombination events, resulting in an even greater number of recombinant plastid DNA species. The abundance of novel recombinant DNA species was higher in T0 plants than in T1 progeny, indicating that the ancillary recombination events described here may have the greatest impact during selection and regeneration of transformants. A line of transplastomic tobacco was identified containing an antibiotic resistance gene unlinked from the intended transgene insertion as a result of an unintended recombination event, indicating that the homologous recombination events described here may hinder efficient recovery of plastid transformants containing the desired transgene.