Plant Science Innovation, Center for


Date of this Version

April 2004


Published in Planta: An International Journal of Plant Biology 218 (2004), pp. 751–758; doi 10.1007/s00425-003-1129-x Copyright © 2003 Springer-Verlag. Used by permission.


The initial step in the synthesis of isoleucine (Ile) is the conversion of threonine to α-ketobutyrate. This reaction is carried out by threonine deaminase (TD), which is feedback-regulated by Ile. Mutations in TD that manifest insensitivity to Ile feedback inhibition result in intracellular accumulation of Ile. Previous reports have shown that in planta expression of the wild-type Escherichia coli TD, ilvA, or an Ile-insensitive mutant designated ilvA-466, increased cellular concentrations of Ile. A structural analog of Ile, L-O-methylthreonine (OMT), is able to compete effectively with Ile during translation and induce cell death. It has been postulated that OMT could therefore be utilized as an effective selective agent in plant engineering studies. To test this concept, we designed two binary plasmids that harbored an nptII cassette and either the wild-type ilvA or mutant ilvA-466. The ilvA coding sequences were fused to a plastid transit peptide down stream of a modified 35S CaMV promoter. Tobacco transformations were set up implementing a selection protocol based on either kanamycin or OMT. The ilvA gene was effectively utilized as a selectable marker gene to identify tobacco transformants when coupled with OMT as the selection agent. However, the transformation efficiency was substantially lower than that observed with nptII using kanamycin as the selection agent. Moreover, in a subset of the ilvA transformants and in a majority of the ilvA-466 transgenic lines, a severe off-type was observed under greenhouse conditions that correlated with increased levels of expression of the ilvA transgene.