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Plant molecular biology

Improved molecular tools for sugar cane biotechnology.


PMID 24150836

Abstract

Sugar cane is a major source of food and fuel worldwide. Biotechnology has the potential to improve economically-important traits in sugar cane as well as diversify sugar cane beyond traditional applications such as sucrose production. High levels of transgene expression are key to the success of improving crops through biotechnology. Here we describe new molecular tools that both expand and improve gene expression capabilities in sugar cane. We have identified promoters that can be used to drive high levels of gene expression in the leaf and stem of transgenic sugar cane. One of these promoters, derived from the Cestrum yellow leaf curling virus, drives levels of constitutive transgene expression that are significantly higher than those achieved by the historical benchmark maize polyubiquitin-1 (Zm-Ubi1) promoter. A second promoter, the maize phosphonenolpyruvate carboxylate promoter, was found to be a strong, leaf-preferred promoter that enables levels of expression comparable to Zm-Ubi1 in this organ. Transgene expression was increased approximately 50-fold by gene modification, which included optimising the codon usage of the coding sequence to better suit sugar cane. We also describe a novel dual transcriptional enhancer that increased gene expression from different promoters, boosting expression from Zm-Ubi1 over eightfold. These molecular tools will be extremely valuable for the improvement of sugar cane through biotechnology.