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Open Access Research article

Rapid in vivo analysis of synthetic promoters for plant pathogen phytosensing

Wusheng Liu, Mitra Mazarei, Mary R Rudis, Michael H Fethe and C Neal Stewart*

Author Affiliations

Department of Plant Sciences, The University of Tennessee, 252 Ellington Plant Sciences, 2431 Joe Johnson Dr., Knoxville, TN 37996, USA

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BMC Biotechnology 2011, 11:108  doi:10.1186/1472-6750-11-108

Published: 17 November 2011

Abstract

Background

We aimed to engineer transgenic plants for the purpose of early detection of plant pathogen infection, which was accomplished by employing synthetic pathogen inducible promoters fused to reporter genes for altered phenotypes in response to the pathogen infection. Toward this end, a number of synthetic promoters consisting of inducible regulatory elements fused to a red fluorescent protein (RFP) reporter were constructed for use in phytosensing.

Results

For rapid analysis, an Agrobacterium-mediated transient expression assay was evaluated, then utilized to assess the inducibility of each synthetic promoter construct in vivo. Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum cv. Xanthi) leaves were infiltrated with Agrobacterium harboring the individual synthetic promoter-reporter constructs. The infiltrated tobacco leaves were re-infiltrated with biotic (bacterial pathogens) or abiotic (plant defense signal molecules salicylic acid, ethylene and methyl jasmonate) agents 24 and 48 hours after initial agroinfiltration, followed by RFP measurements at relevant time points after treatment. These analyses indicated that the synthetic promoter constructs were capable of conferring the inducibility of the RFP reporter in response to appropriate phytohormones and bacterial pathogens, accordingly.

Conclusions

These observations demonstrate that the Agrobacterium-mediated transient expression is an efficient method for in vivo assays of promoter constructs in less than one week. Our results provide the opportunity to gain further insights into the versatility of the expression system as a potential tool for high-throughput in planta expression screening prior to generating stably transgenic plants for pathogen phytosensing. This system could also be utilized for temporary phytosensing; e.g., not requiring stably transgenic plants.