Agrobacterium rhizogenes mediated genetic transformation resulting in hairy root formation is enhanced by ultrasonication and acetosyringone treatment
Chayapathy Narasimha Prasad
Financial support: Department of Biotechnology, Government of India for research grants and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) New Delhi for the award of research fellowships to VK, AS, BCNP and HBG.
Keywords: Agrobacterium rhizogenes, hairy roots, Nicotiana tabacum, transformation frequency, ultra-sonication.
The phytopathogenic bacteria Agrobacterium rhizogenes genetically transforms plants by transferring a portion of the resident Ri plasmid, the T-DNA to the plant. Plant species differ in their temporal competence for transformation. But various physical and chemical methods are found to enhance transformation frequency. Agrobacterium rhizogenes mediated transformation efficiency was assessed under the influence of sonication, calcium treatment, acetosyringone and macerating enzymes in suitable combinations in Nicotiana tabacum as a model system. Manual wounding resulted in 21% transformation frequency. Where as sonication resulted in 2.2 fold increase, followed by sonication with CaCl2 treatment resulted in 2.5 fold increase and sonication with acetosyringone treatment resulted in 4.1 fold increase in transformation frequency. However, sonication with macerating enzyme treatment resulted in 1.5 to 5.25-fold decrease in transformation frequency. Micro wounding through sonication followed by acetosyringone treatment enhanced transformation frequency substantially. The results of this study may be very useful in genetic manipulation of plants by Agrobacterium rhizogenes mediated gene delivery to higher plants, which are recalcitrant to A. tumefaciens mediated genetic manipulation.
Various species of bacteria are capable of transferring genes to higher plant species (Broothaerts et al. 2005). Among them, most widely studied ones are Agrobacterium tumefaciens and Agrobacterium rhizogenes. The soil bacterium Agrobacterium rhizogenes infects the plant tissues and leads to the formation of adventitious roots or it is called as “hairy roots”. Various plant species differ greatly in their susceptibility to infection by Agrobacterium rhizogenes, Agrobacterium tumefaciens and other bacterial species which are capable of gene transfer to plants (Broothaerts et al. 2005). Many reports suggest the use of Agrobacterium rhizogenes for expression of the rol genes and also to deliver foreign genes to susceptible plants (Christey, 2001). The hairy root harbours the T-DNA segment of Ri-plasmid within its nuclear genomes (Chilton et al. 1982). A. rhizogenes are also capable of transferring the T-DNA of binary vectors in trans, thereby facilitating the selection of transgenic plants from screened hairy roots (Christey, 2001). Agrobacterium rhizogenes mediated transformation system was found to be very useful in genetic manipulation of plants for the production of phytochemicals (Shanks and Morgan, 1999), large scale secondary metabolite production (Choi et al. 2000), monoclonal antibody production (Wongsamuth and Doran, 1997) and phytoremediation (Nedelkoska and Doran, 2000). There are many reports that suggest the successful use of A. rhizogenes harbouring binary vectors with desired gene constructs (Christey, 2001) for plant genetic transformation. A number of factors in Agrobacterium mediated transformation process can limit transformation of a particular plant. These include the genotype, wounding of plant tissue, synthesis of phenolic vir gene inducers by the plant, bacterial attachment, T-DNA transfer into the plant cytoplasm, T-DNA nuclear translocation and T-DNA integration (Gelvin, 2000). In order to enhance transformation rates, improvements have been made in various steps involved in genetic transformation. Ultrasonication has been successfully used to deliver and express foreign DNA in protoplasts (Choudhary and Chin, 1995). Moreover ultrasonication was found to be useful in Agrobacterium tumefaciens mediated gene delivery to callus and somatic embryos.
Till date, there are no reports available on influence of physical and chemical treatments on enhancement of transformation rates in A. rhizogenes mediated transformation. In this study we carried out extensive work on enhancement of transformation efficiency in Nicotiana tabacum as a model system and conclusively elucidated for the first time that ultrasonication and acetosyringone treatment is highly effective for obtaining transgenics using A. rhizogenes.
of tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum var. Anand 115) were surface
sterilized with 0.1% mercuric chloride (Hi-media
Mumbai, India) cultured on MS basal media (Murashige
and Skoog, 1962) without any phytohormone for in-vitro
germination. Approximately 2 x
leaf explants of Tobacco were co-cultivated with Agrobacterium
rhizogenes for infection to induce hairy roots. Agrobacterium
cultures were maintained by sub culturing onto a 100 x
minimum of 20 explants were used for each experiment. All the explants
were cultured on sterilized petriplates comprising semi solid MS (Murashige
and Skoog, 1962) medium without phytohormones, however supplemented
The leaf discs were kept in disposable sterile petriplate, pricked manually with metal needle (~10 wounds/cm2) (Table 1, Treatment A), dipped in Agrobacterium rhizogenes culture and incubated in a shaker at 70 rpm for 30 min in dark. The explants were blot dried using sterile filter paper and inoculated on co-cultivation medium as described above.
assisted Agrobacterium tumefaciens mediated transformation
(Trick and Finer, 1997) was modified and adopted
for transformation experiments. The leaf segments were taken in a
50 ml polypropylene tube (
explants were sonicated as described above. Macerating enzymes pectinase
(P 9932, Sigma Chemical Co, USA)
0.1 to 1% v/v (Table 1, Treatment C1, C2, C3)
and cellulase (Onozuka R-10 Yakult Pharmaceutical Industry
Co., Ltd, Japan) 0.1 to 1% w/v (Table 1, Treatment
D1, D2, D3), was freshly prepared and dispensed in cell wall degrading
enzyme solution (KH2PO4 27.2 gml-1,
KI 0.16 gml-1, CuSO4.5H2O 0.025 gml-1,
KNO3 0.101 gml-1, MgSO4.7H2O
0.246 mgl-1, Mannitol 9% (Hi-media
Mumbai, India), 2-(N-Morpholino)-ethane-sulphonic acid (Sigma USA)-KOH [PH
Acetosyringone (Sigma USA) 50 -150 μM was incorporated in the co-cultivation medium (Table 1, Treatment F1, F2, F3). This was filter sterilized using 0.22 µm disposable sterile syringe filter (Sartorius, USA) added to sterilized, cooled co-cultivation medium. The sonicated explants dipped in A. rhizogenes culture incubated in a shaker at 70 rpm for 30 min in dark. The explants were blot dried using sterile filter paper and inoculated on co-cultivation medium.
cultures were incubated in the dark for 24 hrs, they were then transferred
to fresh MS medium containing cefotaxime
Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) was used to detect the Ri T-DNA integration
in hairy roots. The bacteria-free roots grown in MS basal medium were
removed, dried on sterile filter paper and quickly frozen in liquid
N2. Thereafter, genomic DNA from putative transformed and
normal roots was extracted using Gen Elute DNA extraction kit (Sigma
USA)). PCR was performed to detect the rol A gene using
a set of rol A specific primer pair (Sigma USA). A 308
bp rol A gene fragment was amplified by using the following
primer sets. Forward- 5’-AGAATGGAATTAGCCGGACTA-
The results were expressed in percentage transformation frequency.
Fifty to 60 leaf explants were inoculated with A. rhizogenes for each treatment in each experiment and 25 explants were cultured as positive and negative control using live and killed A. rhizogenes respectively for infection. All the experiments were carried out in triplicate and the results were expressed as mean + SD. Statistical analysis was performed according to Tukey (1953).
Hairy roots were formed only from wounded regions. Each type of infection and wounding method showed unique pattern of hairy root induction with varying percentage of transformation frequency (Figure 1). Infection of leaf explants by manual wounding resulted in induction of hairy roots originating from the mid vein region (Figure 1a). However, sonication treatment alone and with acetosyringone and calcium ion treatments resulted in induction of hairy roots from all over the surface of the leaf explants (Figure 1b-f).
Persisting A. rhizogenes contamination was eliminated by frequent subcultures on medium containing antibiotics. Bacteria free root tips were cultured on liquid medium. We observed profuse growth of the hairy roots in liquid MS medium devoid of growth regulators and antibiotics. The transgenic nature of hairy roots was confirmed by PCR using rol A specific primers in bacteria free hairy roots DNA. A 308 bp rol A expected size fragments was obtained only in hairy roots and absent in normal roots (Figure 2). This amplicon reacted with the rol A specific probe in southern hybridization confirmed the transgenic nature of the roots (Figure 3). Culturing the hairy root samples in LB medium did not show the bacterial growth indicating the absence of live A. rhizogenes. PCR with vir C primers revealed the absence of contaminating A. rhizogenes (data not shown).
wounding resulted in 21% transformation frequency. The control explants
inoculated with only LB medium devoid of Agrobacterium rhizogenes
did not show induction of roots. Macerating enzyme treatment in
combination with sonication resulted in reduced transformation frequency
(Figure 4, Figure 5, Figure
6). Sonication treatment of leaf explants resulted in 2.2 fold
increase in terms of transformation frequency when compared to manual
wounding (Figure 4). Sonication assisted transformation
resulted in 46% transformation frequency (Figure
4). There was slight increase in transformation frequency when
Tobacco serves as an excellent model system to study the factors influencing genetic transformation. Agrobacterium rhizogenes is used to express rol genes and also to deliver foreign genes to susceptible plants. A number of reports available on enhancing the transformation rate in A. tumefaciens mediated gene transfer. There is increasing need for studies on enhancement in gene transfer efficiency in other bacteria such as A. rhizogenes, Rhizobium sp NGR234, Sinorhizobium meliloti and Mesorhizobium loti which are capable of gene transfer to higher plants (Broothaerts et al. 2005). However this is the first report on the use of physical and chemical treatments by which the transformation efficiency by A. rhizogenes can be enhanced. This would be useful in genetic transformation of other recalcitrant plants.
Wounding is a prerequisite for the genetic transformation process through Agrobacterium and may aid in the production of signal phenolics (Gelvin, 2000) and enhance the accessibility of putative cell-wall binding factors (Gelvin, 2000) to the bacterium. Acetosyringone is one such compound used successfully to enhance transformation in various plant species in A. tumefaciens mediated genetic transformation. Similar observations have been made in our studies.
The cell wall disruption caused by the lower energy ultrasonic frequency utilized in the present study is apparently very useful for Agrobacterium rhizogenes mediated transformation. Although the average expression obtained with various sonication treatments did not differ significantly, the large extent of micro wounding observed with longer treatment indicated that the 30 sec treatment was more suitable for further experiments. Meurer and others (1998) reported the enhancement in transgene delivery to soybean cotyledonary nodes by Agrobacterium tumefaciens mediated transformation. Sonication has been used to enhance Agrobacterium tumefaciens mediated transformation of many different plant species (Trick and Finer, 1997; Santarem et al. 1998). Bidney and others (1992) reported synergistic effect of micro projectile bombardment plant tissues with Agrobacterium tumefaciens and found to increase the transformation rate. We have tested the synergistic effect of ultra-sonication with A. rhizogenes mediated transformation. This is the first report in which ultrasonication has been tried and found to enhance transformation rates in A. rhizogenes mediated genetic transformation.
Calcium is an essential plant nutrient and required for various signalling pathways (White and Broadley, 2003; Sanders et al. 1999). Since calcium ions are known to increase the permeability of the biological membranes, we wanted to test its effect on gene transfer in higher plants.
Macerating enzymes such as cellulases, pectinases, which are regularly used in protoplast isolation procedures (Alibert et al. 1994), could represent a less disruptive method to remove the cell wall barrier. Following the digestion, the area where Agrobacterium can attach to plant cells might increase for enhanced transformation. In order to test this hypothesis we examined the effect of macerating enzymes on the transformation efficiency in tobacco leaves. In order to assess the effects of macerating enzymes, we compared enzyme treatment and mechanical wounding of the explant by sonication. But the results clearly demonstrated that, the macerating enzyme treatment drastically reduces the transformation efficiency.
Acetosyringone has been known to enhance transformation efficiency due to activation of vir genes in A. tumefaciens (Gelvin, 2000). Therefore we presume that the enhancement in transformation by acetosyringone treatment may be due to activation of vir genes which is absolutely required for the T-DNA delivery to plant tissues. Tang (2003) demonstrated that, incorporation of additional virulence genes and sonication treatment can enhance Agrobacterium tumefaciens mediated transformation in loblolly pine.
We conclude that, wounding of host tissue by ultrasonication and treatment with acetosyringone followed by exposure to A. rhizogenes results in enhanced transformation frequency. This may be useful in transfer of genes to recalcitrant plants using A. rhizogenes.
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