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Gene flow from transgenic plants: evaluation and biotechnology (TRANSBAC)



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EU Contribution

1 199 528 Euro


36 months


Research project

Starting date


gene transfer
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This project addresses the likelihood of gene transfer from transgenic (chloroplastic) plants to environmental microorganisms. The objectives of this work are to understand and quantify gene transfer under optimum conditions and to develop tools for reducing (or augmenting) this gene transfer. Several systems have been developed for this project: microbial (receptor bacteria) and plant (chloroplastic transgenic plants). A range of conditions and biological models will be examined inorder to gain a better overview of the probability of gene transfer. Gene transfer is expected to indicate a function of the genetic environment of the gene, the number of copies, its persistence in the environment, and physical conditions that increase selective pressure and enhance gene transfer.

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This 3-year research project aims to provide the scientific basis for quantifying the potential for gene transfer from transgenic plants to environmental bacteria and to develop technologies for inhibiting and enhancing this transfer.

Specific objectives:

  • Understand the potential for the dissemination of antibiotic resistance genes from transgenic plants.
  • Determine gene transfer probability with plant pathogenic microorganisms within the transgenic plants.
  • Assess changes in biodiversity by examining the fate and effects of transgenic plant's DNA after plant death.
  • Quantify the capacity of indigenous (soil and rhizosphere) microorganisms to assimilate environmental DNA whose original source was transgenic plants.
  • Develop the biotechnology for "cleaner" transgenic plants.

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Certain biological models have been chosen to enhance gene transfer optimisation. Among them, is the use of chloroplastic constructions with high gene copy numbers as compared to nuclear transgenic plants. In addition, the project will use Ralstonia, which has demonstrated increased transformation (gene exchange) rates in planta. Acinetobacter, whose high natural competence for transformation makes it an aggressive gene recipient, will also be used. This project does not only try to improve biological models, but also proposes environmental improvement by studying the possibility of genetransfer in the rhizosphere and in soils. In parallel with this development, studies on the effect of the transgenic plant (both directly and indirectly through the release of decayed transgenes) on the neighbouring ecology will be performed, specifically related the biodiversity (measuring genotypic and phenotypic variations) of the microbial ecology and the terrestrial food web.

This understanding of the possibility of gene transfer is critical for informed decision-making, but insufficient in itself for improving the entire technology. The transgenic plant technology needs the biotechnological tools for responding to important technological questions.

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  • Demonstration and quantification of the uptake of transgenic plant genes by bacteria in planta.
  • Demonstration and quantification that soil and/or rhizospheric bacteria take up plant genes found in the decayed transgenic plant matter.
  • Evaluation of the microbial ecological effects of transgenic plants.
  • Development of a biotechnology start-up company.
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  Prof. Dr. Timothy M. Vogel
Center for Microbial Ecology
Université de Lyon 1
69622 Villeurbanne Cedex, France
Tel: +33 472441223
Fax: +33 472431223

  Prof. Philippe Auriol
Centre de Génie Electrique de Lyon (CEGELY)
69 131 Ecully Cedex, France
Tel: +33 472186098
Fax: +33 478433717

Dr. Ghyslaine Tissot
Aventis CropScience
Tel: +33 472852847
Fax: +33 472852297

Prof. Asa Frostegard
Dep. of Chemistry and Biotechnology
Agricultural University of Norway
1432 Aas, Norway
Tel: +47 64947754
Fax: +47 64947750

Dr. Jan Dirk van Elsas
Plant Research International B.V.
6700AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
Tel: +31 317476210
Fax: +31 317410113

Dr. Renaud Nalin
7 Impasse Régaud
69300 Caluire, France
Tel: +33 472431110
Fax: +33 472431223

Dr. Yves Dessaux
91198 Gif-sur-Yvette Cedex, France
Tel: +33 169823690
Fax: +33 169823695

Dr. Christoph C. Tebbe
Institut für Agrarökologie
Bundesforschungsanstalt für Landwirtschaft (FAL)
38116 Braunschweig, Germany
Tel: +49 531596736
Fax: +49 531596366

PD Dr. Kornelia Smalla
BBA, Federal Biological Research
Centre for Agriculture and Forestry
38104 Braunschweig, Germany
Tel: +49 5312993814
Fax: +49 5312993013

Dr. Daniele Daffonchio
Universitŕ degli Studi di Milano
Dipartimento di Scienze e
Tecnologie Alimentari e Microbiologiche
20133 Milano, Italy
Tel: +39 223955845
Fax: +39 270630829
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