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Open Access Methodology article

Using quantitative real-time PCR to detect chimeras in transgenic tobacco and apricot and to monitor their dissociation

Mohamed Faize2, Lydia Faize1 and Lorenzo Burgos1*

Author Affiliations

1 Grupo de Biotecnología, Departamento de Mejora de Frutales. CEBAS-CSIC, P.O. Box 164, 30.100 Murcia, Spain

2 Laboratoire de Biologie et Biotechnologie Végétales. Faculté des Sciences, Université Chouaib Doukkali, 24000 El Jadida, Morocco

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BMC Biotechnology 2010, 10:53  doi:10.1186/1472-6750-10-53

Published: 16 July 2010

Abstract

Background

The routine generation of transgenic plants involves analysis of transgene integration into the host genome by means of Southern blotting. However, this technique cannot distinguish between uniformly transformed tissues and the presence of a mixture of transgenic and non-transgenic cells in the same tissue. On the other hand, the use of reporter genes often fails to accurately detect chimerical tissues because their expression can be affected by several factors, including gene silencing and plant development. So, new approaches based on the quantification of the amount of the transgene are needed urgently.

Results

We show here that chimeras are a very frequent phenomenon observed after regenerating transgenic plants. Spatial and temporal analyses of transformed tobacco and apricot plants with a quantitative, real-time PCR amplification of the neomycin phosphotransferase (nptII) transgene as well as of an internal control (β-actin), used to normalise the amount of target DNA at each reaction, allowed detection of chimeras at unexpected rates. The amount of the nptII transgene differed greatly along with the sub-cultivation period of these plants and was dependent on the localisation of the analysed leaves; being higher in roots and basal leaves, while in the apical leaves it remained at lower levels. These data demonstrate that, unlike the use of the gus marker gene, real-time PCR is a powerful tool for detection of chimeras. Although some authors have proposed a consistent, positive Southern analysis as an alternative methodology for monitoring the dissociation of chimeras, our data show that it does not provide enough proof of uniform transformation. In this work, however, real-time PCR was applied successfully to monitor the dissociation of chimeras in tobacco plants and apricot callus.

Conclusions

We have developed a rapid and reliable method to detect and estimate the level of chimeras in transgenic tobacco and apricot plants. This method can be extended to monitor the dissociation of chimeras and the recovery of uniformly-transformed plants.