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Open Access Methodology article

Fast-tracking development of homozygous transgenic cereal lines using a simple and highly flexible real-time PCR assay

Jos C Mieog*, Crispin A Howitt and Jean-Philippe Ral

Author Affiliations

CSIRO Food Futures National Research Flagship, GPO Box 1600, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia

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BMC Plant Biology 2013, 13:71  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-13-71

Published: 30 April 2013

Abstract

Background

A crucial step in the evaluation of newly produced transgenic plants is the selection of homozygous plants. Here we describe an efficient and highly flexible real-time PCR-based method for the development of homozygous lines in plant models with complex (multiple) genomes and/or relatively long generation times (>3 months) using direct copy number determinations.

Results

An existing DNA extraction method was converted into a high-throughput plant leaf DNA extraction procedure yielding DNA suitable for real-time PCR analyses. Highly specific and efficient primer pairs were developed for a bread wheat reference gene (Epsilon Cyclase) and for standard sequence elements in the gene cassette routinely used for cereal transformations (an intron bridge and the Nopaline Synthase terminator). The real-time PCR assay reliably distinguished wheat plants with a single copy of the transgene from individuals with multiple copies or those lacking the transgene. To obtain homozygous lines carrying a unique insertion event as efficiently as possible, T0 plants (plants raised from transformed callus) with a single copy of the transgene were selected and their progeny screened for homozygous plants. Finally, the assay was adapted to work on rice.

Conclusions

The ability to quickly, easily and accurately quantify the construct copy numbers, as provided by the real-time PCR assay, greatly improved the efficiency and reliability of the selection of homozygous transgenic plants in our case study. We were able to select homozygous plants in early generations, avoiding time-consuming methods such as large scale analysis of segregation patterns of descendants and/or Southern blotting. Additionally, the ability to specifically develop homozygous lines carrying a unique insertion event could be important in avoiding gene silencing due to co-suppression, and if needed assist in the selection of lines suitable for future deregulation. The same primer pairs can be used to quantify many different wheat transgenic events because the construct-specific primer pairs are targeted to standard sequence elements of the cereal gene cassettes, making the method widely applicable in wheat GM research. Moreover, because all procedures described here are standardized, the method may easily be adapted to vectors lacking the target regions used here and/or to other plant models.

Keywords:
Real-time PCR; qPCR; Cereal; Wheat; Transgene; Copy number; Homozygous line