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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Agrobacterium rhizogenes-mediated transformation of Superroot-derived Lotus corniculatus plants: a valuable tool for functional genomics

Bo Jian123, Wensheng Hou1, Cunxiang Wu1, Bin Liu13, Wei Liu1, Shikui Song1, Yurong Bi2 and Tianfu Han1*

Author Affiliations

1 The National Key Facility for Crop Gene Resources and Genetic Improvement (NFCRI), Institute of Crop Sciences, The Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing 100081, PR China

2 School of Life Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, PR China

3 Current address: Department of Biology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Realfagbygget, Trondheim NO-7491, Norway

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BMC Plant Biology 2009, 9:78  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-9-78

Published: 25 June 2009



Transgenic approaches provide a powerful tool for gene function investigations in plants. However, some legumes are still recalcitrant to current transformation technologies, limiting the extent to which functional genomic studies can be performed on. Superroot of Lotus corniculatus is a continuous root cloning system allowing direct somatic embryogenesis and mass regeneration of plants. Recently, a technique to obtain transgenic L. corniculatus plants from Superroot-derived leaves through A. tumefaciens-mediated transformation was described. However, transformation efficiency was low and it took about six months from gene transfer to PCR identification.


In the present study, we developed an A. rhizogenes-mediated transformation of Superroot-derived L. corniculatus for gene function investigation, combining the efficient A. rhizogenes-mediated transformation and the rapid regeneration system of Superroot. The transformation system using A. rhizogenes K599 harbouring pGFPGUSPlus was improved by validating some parameters which may influence the transformation frequency. Using stem sections with one node as explants, a 2-day pre-culture of explants, infection with K599 at OD600 = 0.6, and co-cultivation on medium (pH 5.4) at 22°C for 2 days enhanced the transformation frequency significantly. As proof of concept, Superroot-derived L. corniculatus was transformed with a gene from wheat encoding an Na+/H+ antiporter (TaNHX2) using the described system. Transgenic Superroot plants were obtained and had increased salt tolerance, as expected from the expression of TaNHX2.


A rapid and efficient tool for gene function investigation in L. corniculatus was developed, combining the simplicity and high efficiency of the Superroot regeneration system and the availability of A. rhizogenes-mediated transformation. This system was improved by validating some parameters influencing the transformation frequency, which could reach 92% based on GUS detection. The combination of the highly efficient transformation and the regeneration system of Superroot provides a valuable tool for functional genomics studies in L. corniculatus.