In vitro selection of transgenic sugarcane callus utilizing a plant gene encoding a mutant form of acetolactate synthase

Van Der Vyver, Christell ; Conradie, Tobie ; Kossmann, Jens ; Lloyd, James (2013-02-05)

Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund.

The original publication is available at


Selection genes are routinely used in plant genetic transformation protocols to ensure the survival of transformed cells by limiting the regeneration of non-transgenic cells. In order to find alternatives to the use of antibiotics as selection agents, we followed a targeted approach utilizing a plant gene, encoding a mutant form of the enzyme acetolactate synthase, to convey resistance to herbicides. The sensitivity of sugarcane callus (Saccharum spp. hybrids, cv. NCo310) to a number of herbicides from the sulfonylurea and imidazolinone classes was tested. Callus growth was most affected by sulfonylurea herbicides, particularly 3.6 μg/l chlorsulfuron. Herbicide-resistant transgenic sugarcane plants containing mutant forms of a tobacco acetolactate synthase (als) gene were obtained following biolistic transformation. Post-bombardment, putative transgenic callus was selectively proliferated on MS medium containing 3 mg/l 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), 20 g/l sucrose, 0.5 g/l casein, and 3.6 μg/l chlorsulfuron. Plant regeneration and rooting was done on MS medium lacking 2,4-D under similar selection conditions. Thirty vigorously growing putative transgenic plants were successfully ex vitro-acclimatized and established under glasshouse conditions. Glasshouse spraying of putative transgenic plants with 100 mg/l chlorsulfuron dramatically decreased the amount of non-transgenic plants that had escaped the in vitro selection regime. PCR analysis showed that six surviving plants were als-positive and that five of these expressed the mutant als gene. This report is the first to describe a selection system for sugarcane transformation that uses a selectable marker gene of plant origin targeted by a sulfonylurea herbicide.

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