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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Development of selectable marker free, insect resistant, transgenic mustard (Brassica juncea) plants using Cre/lox mediated recombination

Arpita Bala1, Amit Roy1, Ayan Das1, Dipankar Chakraborti2 and Sampa Das1*

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Plant Biology, Bose Institute, P1/12, C. I. T Scheme VIIM, Kolkata 700054, WB, India

2 Post Graduate Department of Biotechnology, St. Xavier’s College (Autonomous), 30 Park Street, Kolkata 700016, India

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BMC Biotechnology 2013, 13:88  doi:10.1186/1472-6750-13-88

Published: 21 October 2013



Antibiotic/ herbicide resistant marker genes have been proven to be very useful in plant transformation for the initial selection of desired transgenic events. However, presence of these genes in the genetically modified crops may render the crop less acceptable to the consumers. Among several different approaches, the effectiveness of Cre/lox mediated recombination strategy for selectable marker gene (SMG) elimination has previously been demonstrated by different groups in several plants including Brassica. In the present study exploiting Cre/lox mediated recombination strategy, attempt has been made for selectable marker gene elimination from Allium sativum leaf agglutinin (ASAL) expressing Brassica plants with hemipteran insect resistant phenotype.


Allium sativum leaf agglutinin (ASAL) linked with lox flanked hygromycin resistant (hpt) gene was introduced in mustard. Cre recombinase gene cassette was also integrated in separate event. A Cre/lox mediated recombination using crossing strategy was adopted to remove the hpt gene from the subsequent generation of selected hybrid events. Reciprocal crosses were made between T1ASAL-lox-hpt-lox and cre-bar plants. Marker gene elimination was confirmed in the resulting F1 hybrid progenies by PCR analysis, using hpt, cre and ASAL specific primers followed by Southern hybridization. In marker free plants, expression of ASAL was also confirmed by western blotting and ELISA analysis. Retention of functionality of expressed ASAL was investigated by agglutination assay using rabbit erythrocytes. Expressed ASAL was also found to be thermo-sensitive. In planta insect bioassay on F1 hybrid progenies exhibited detrimental effect on the performance of devastating target pest, Lipaphis erysimi. The F1 hybrid hpt negative, ASAL positive plants were allowed to self- fertilize to obtain F2 progeny plants. In some of these plants cre gene was found to be segregated out of the ASAL gene by genetic segregation yielding completely marker free plants.


The present study establishes the efficient expression of the newly introduced insect resistant ASAL gene even after Cre/lox mediated recombination resulting in elimination of selectable marker gene.

Agglutination; Allium sativum leaf agglutinin (ASAL); Cre/lox recombination; Lipaphis erysimi; Selectable marker gene (SMG)