Development of marker-free transgenic Jatropha curcas producing curcin-deficient seeds through endosperm-specific RNAi-mediated gene silencing
Date of Issue2015-10-08
School of Biological Sciences
Background: Jatropha curcas L. is a potential biofuel plant and its seed oil is suitable for biodiesel production. Despite this promising application, jatropha seeds contain two major toxic components, namely phorbol esters and curcins. These compounds would reduce commercial value of seed cake and raise safety and environment concerns on jatropha plantation and processing. Curcins are Type I ribosome inactivating proteins. Several curcin genes have been identified in the jatropha genome. Among which, the Curcin 1 (C1) gene is identified to be specifically expressed in endosperm, whereas the Curcin 2A (C2A) is mainly expressed in young leaves. Results: A marker-free RNAi construct carrying a β-estradiol-regulated Cre/loxP system and a C1 promoter-driven RNAi cassette for C1 gene was made and used to generate marker-free transgenic RNAi plants to specifically silence the C1 gene in the endosperm of J. curcas. Plants of transgenic line L1, derived from T0-1, carry two copies of marker-free RNAi cassette, whereas plants of L35, derived from T0-35, harbored one copy of marker-free RNAi cassette and three copies of closely linked and yet truncated Hpt genes. The C1 protein content in endosperm of L1 and L35 seeds was greatly reduced or undetectable, while the C2A proteins in young leaves of T0-1 and T0-35 plants were unaffected. In addition, the C1 mRNA transcripts were undetectable in the endosperm of T3 seeds of L1 and L35. The results demonstrated that the expression of the C1 gene was specifically down-regulated or silenced by the double-stranded RNA-mediated RNA interference generated from the RNAi cassette. Conclusion: The C1 promoter-driven RNAi cassette for the C1 gene in transgenic plants was functional and heritable. Both C1 transcripts and C1 proteins were greatly down-regulated or silenced in the endosperm of transgenic J. curcas. The marker-free transgenic plants and curcin-deficient seeds developed in this study provided a solution for the toxicity of curcins in jatropha seeds and addressed the safety concerns of the marker genes in transgenic plants on the environments.
BMC Plant Biology
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