Stability and expression of bacterial genes in replicating geminivirus vectors in plants
Coutts, Robert H.A.
Bacterial beta-glucuronidase (gus) and neomycin phosphotransferase (neo) genes were introduced into coat protein replacement vectors based on DNA A of tomato golden mosaic virus (TGMV). Recombinant gus and neo vectors up to 1.1 kbp larger than DNA A were shown to replicate stably in transgenic plants containing partial dimers (master copies) of the vectors integrated into their chromosomal DNA in the absence of DNA B. Beta-glucuronidase and neomycin phosphotransferase activities in independently transformed plants were proportional to the copy number of the doublestranded forms of the vector. Deletion analysis has shown that an essential part of the TGMV coat protein promoter, including a TATA box, lies within 76 nt upstream of the initiation codon of the gene. An increase in expression of a neo gene was obtained by replacing this 76 nt sequence by an 800 nt sequence containing a cauliflower mosaic virus 35S RNA promoter with no effect on the ability of the vector to replicate or on its stability in transgenic plants. Systemic infection of plants by agroinoculation with TGMV vectors larger than DNA A in the presence of DNA B resulted in deletions in the vector DNA in some, but not all, plants. Possible reasons for vector instability in systemically infected plants, and vector stability in transgenic plants containing master copies of the vector, are discussed.