Characterization of a cruciferin deficient mutant of Arabidopsis and its utility for overexpression of foreign proteins in plants.

Lin, Y., Pajak, A., Marsolais, F., McCourt, P., and Riggs, C.D. (2013). "Characterization of a cruciferin deficient mutant of Arabidopsis and its utility for overexpression of foreign proteins in plants.", PLoS ONE, 8(5), pp. e64980. doi : 10.1371/journal.pone.0064980  Access to full text


Plant seeds naturally accumulate storage reserves (proteins, carbohydrates, lipids) that are mobilized during germination to provide energy and raw materials to support early seedling growth. Seeds have been exploited as bioreactors for the production to foreign materials, but stable, high level expression has been elusive, in part due to the intrinsic bias for producing the natural reserves in their typical proportions. To identify mutants governing seed filling, we screened a population of mutagenized Arabidopsis plants for a mutant that failed to fill its seeds. Here we report the identification of ssp1, a recessive, viable mutant that accumulates approximately 15% less protein than wildtype seeds. Molecular analyses revealed that ssp1 is due to the introduction of a premature stop codon in CRU3, one of the major cruciferin genes. Unlike many other reserve mutants or transgenic lines in which seed storage protein levels are reduced by antisense/RNAi technologies, ssp1 exhibits low level compensation by other reserves, and represents a mutant background that might prove useful for high level expression of foreign proteins. To test this hypothesis, we used a bean phytohemagglutinin (PHA) gene as a reporter and compared PHA expression levels in single copy insertion lines in ssp1 vs. wildtype. These near isogenic lines allow reporter protein levels to be compared without the confounding and sometimes unknown influences of transgene copy number and position effects on gene expression. The ssp1 lines consistently accumulated more PHA than the backcrossed counterparts, with increases ranging from 12% to 126%. This proof of principle study suggests that similar strategies in crop plants may improve the yield of foreign proteins of agronomic and economic interest.

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