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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) polyubiquitin gene (PvUbi1 and PvUbi2) promoters for use in plant transformation

David GJ Mann14*, Zachary R King24, Wusheng Liu1, Blake L Joyce1, Ryan J Percifield34, Jennifer S Hawkins34, Peter R LaFayette24, Barbara J Artelt24, Jason N Burris14, Mitra Mazarei14, Jeffrey L Bennetzen34, Wayne A Parrott24 and Charles N Stewart14

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA

2 Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA

3 Department of Genetics, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA

4 The BioEnergy Science Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN 37831-6026, USA

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BMC Biotechnology 2011, 11:74  doi:10.1186/1472-6750-11-74

Published: 11 July 2011



The ubiquitin protein is present in all eukaryotic cells and promoters from ubiquitin genes are good candidates to regulate the constitutive expression of transgenes in plants. Therefore, two switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) ubiquitin genes (PvUbi1 and PvUbi2) were cloned and characterized. Reporter constructs were produced containing the isolated 5' upstream regulatory regions of the coding sequences (i.e. PvUbi1 and PvUbi2 promoters) fused to the uidA coding region (GUS) and tested for transient and stable expression in a variety of plant species and tissues.


PvUbi1 consists of 607 bp containing cis-acting regulatory elements, a 5' untranslated region (UTR) containing a 93 bp non-coding exon and a 1291 bp intron, and a 918 bp open reading frame (ORF) that encodes four tandem, head -to-tail ubiquitin monomer repeats followed by a 191 bp 3' UTR. PvUbi2 consists of 692 bp containing cis-acting regulatory elements, a 5' UTR containing a 97 bp non-coding exon and a 1072 bp intron, a 1146 bp ORF that encodes five tandem ubiquitin monomer repeats and a 183 bp 3' UTR. PvUbi1 and PvUbi2 were expressed in all examined switchgrass tissues as measured by qRT-PCR. Using biolistic bombardment, PvUbi1 and PvUbi2 promoters showed strong expression in switchgrass and rice callus, equaling or surpassing the expression levels of the CaMV 35S, 2x35S, ZmUbi1, and OsAct1 promoters. GUS staining following stable transformation in rice demonstrated that the PvUbi1 and PvUbi2 promoters drove expression in all examined tissues. When stably transformed into tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum), the PvUbi2+3 and PvUbi2+9 promoter fusion variants showed expression in vascular and reproductive tissues.


The PvUbi1 and PvUbi2 promoters drive expression in switchgrass, rice and tobacco and are strong constitutive promoter candidates that will be useful in genetic transformation of monocots and dicots.