Transgenic Rice Plants

.. nsgene at a single locus. To assess the mortality rate among different insects, both petri dish assays and whole plant assays were performed. In petri dish assays, mortality rates were as follows: European corn borer = 85-95% Yellow stem borer = 100% Striped stem borer = 100% Cnaphalocrocis medinalis (leaffolder) = 67% Marasmia patnalis (leaffolder) = 55% In whole plant assays, no surviving insects were found on any BT expressing plants, although insects still survived on the control plants or non expressing BT plants. In addition to this recent insertion of the BT gene into Indica rice, a similar procedure was conducted on Shuahggei 36, a variety of Indica rice. Transgeneicy of Shuahggei 36 was achieved by taking plasmid P41ORH, which contained the coding region of the BT gene with the marker CaMV 35S-HPI-NOS plus 1.0 kb of DNA fragment, and inserting it into the pollen tube pathway.

More specifically, the plasmid DNA was applied at the cut ends of rice florets from one to four hours after pollination. Next the seeds that were harvested were germinated under hygromycin B resistance. However only 3% of the plants survived hygromycin resistance. After this, the seedlings from the second generation were again segregated for hygromycin resistance. From these seeds, seventy plant lines were screened for transgeneicy and fifteen displayed the BT protein.

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These results and the inheritance of the BT gene into offspring were confirmed by Southern blotting. Nevertheless, the question remains whether the BT gene was really integrated into the genome or whether it was expressed only as a plasmid. The use of the arcelin gene is another experimental method of creating transgenic rice plants. The arcelin gene is a translationally enhanced Bacillus thuringiensis toxin construct that is effective on the rice water weevil. The rice water weevil or RWW is the major pest of the Texan rice crop. Previously, the RWW was combated by granular carbofuran, an insecticide that kills the RWW but has deleterious effects on water fowl that live in the crop area.

So environmentalists have forced the cessation of the use of granular carbofuran and therefore, new methods have to be developed. One of the major genes that confer resistance to the RWW is the arcelin gene. Arcelin is a lectin that was originally discovered in the seeds of bean cultivators that showed resistance to the Mexican bean weevil. Next, researchers isolated a genomic clone encoding arcelin from the bean seed and then placed it under regulation of a rice actin promoter. Then the clone with the rice promoter was introduced into rice protoplast s. Transgeneicy and inheritance was then confirmed by genomic DNA blots and immunochemical blots. In two separate experiments, six transgenic rice plants were subjected to RWW infestation under controlled conditions.

The results of the first experiment are that similar numbers of RWW larvae were recovered from each set of six plants, but the size of those from arcelin expressing plants were significantly smaller. In the second experiment, although many normal larvae were recovered from control plants, only three small larvae came from arcelin expressing plants. This would indicate the benefits of inserting the arcelin gene into rice plants for RWW resistance. Another experimental method of creating transgenic rice plants that are insect resistant includes the use of snowdrop lectin or galanthus nivallis agglutinin (GNA). Snowdrop lectin helps to control the sporadically serious pest the brown planthopper (BPH), which has developed a resistance to many pesticides. Luckily for the environment, snowdrop lectin provides high levels of toxicity to BPH but not to other animals. BPH is a member of the order Homoptera and feeds by sucking the phloem sap from the stems of rice plants.

The major problem with combating BPH is that rice plants can not be engineered for BT toxin resistance against this pest because BT toxins that effect Homopterans have not yet been discovered or reported. Therefore, other types of genes had to be manipulated in order to produce insect resistance against BPH. The best plant protein that provides resistance to BPHs turns out to be snowdrop lectin, and this was first confirmed by artificial diet bioassays. To create the transgenic rice plants, embryonic cell suspension cultures were initiated from mature embryos from two Japonica rice varieties, Taipei 309 and Zhonghua 8. Next, the protoplasts isolated from these cell suspension cultures were transformed by using the plasmid pSCGUSR, containing the nos-npt II gene as a selectable marker. Plasmid uptake was then induced by the PEG process and geneticin was used as a selection agent.

Geneticin was added to the protoplast-derived colonies during the four and eight cell stages. From this, more than fifty putative transgenic plants have been regenerated from one thousand resistant colonies. Another way of combating the brown planthopper is by producing phloem-specific promoters. These promoters are necessary because phloem is the exact site of feeding for the BPH. Although the CaMV promoter is active in phloem tissue, the possibility exists to institute a promoter from a gene that is specifically expressed only in phloem.

This would be advantageous if there are other parts of the plant that may be negatively affected by the promoter and in this scenario, they would be unaffected. Recently, a phloem specific promoter has been obtained from the rice sucrose synthase gene RSs 1. RSs 1 promoter was used to drive the snowdrop lectin or GNA protein. The results were confirmed by the use of immunological assays and they indicated that not only is the gene being expressed in the phloem tissues, but that the protein product has been successfully transported to phloem sap. Unfortunately, RSs 1 is heavily expressed in the seeds of rice plants, so an alternative promoter called PP2 is currently under study.

So far, PP2 has been purified and partially sequenced. Also, a full cDNA library has been created for the gene and it has been used to probe a genomic library to obtain the corresponding gene. The promoter region form the PP2 gene is now being assayed. One final method of creating insect resistance in rice plants is the use of the SBTI gene. SBTI gene is a trypsin inhibitor that acts against pests such as the yellow stem borer and the gall midge.

Greater insect resistance can be created by introducing the Kunitz soybean trypsin inhibitor (SBTI) gene into varieties of Indica rice plants. First, a PCP product corresponding to the protein was isolated by oligonucleotide primers. Then, the resulting fragment was cloned, sequenced and expressed in E. coli cell cultures. The results were a recombinant SBTI gene that effectively fought off gall midges and yellow stem borers. Presently, the SBTI gene is being cloned into vectors and is being used to transform other types of embryos using the particle gun technique. In conclusion, through the use of new technologies such as the introduction of potato proteinase inhibitor II gene, the establishment of the Bacillus thuringiensis toxin gene and the experimental methods of using the arcelin gene, the snowdrop lectin/GNA (galanthus nivallis agglutinin) protein, and phloem specific promoters and finally the SBTI gene, rice plants have become almost completely resistant to insects that used to destroy much of the crop.

This has been an important step in biotechnology because the improvement of rice plants is a major concern that could potentially effect almost all of the populations of the world. Biotechnology has become an increasingly accepted method of solving some of the major problems in agriculture, medicine, and industry. Potentially, with the advancements of many techniques, almost whenever people eat, drink, take medicine, or go to work, they will be touched in some way by the many complicated processes of biotechnology, that are striving to make our world a bette r place to exist in.