Departmental Papers (Dental)

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Journal Article

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Plant Physiology





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The first characterization of transcriptional, posttranscriptional, and translational processes of heterologous operons expressed via the tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) chloroplast genome is reported here. Northern-blot analyses performed on chloroplast transgenic lines harboring seven different heterologous operons revealed that polycistronic mRNA was the predominant transcript produced. Despite the lack of processing of such polycistrons, large amounts of foreign protein accumulation was observed in these transgenic lines, indicating abundant translation of polycistrons. This is supported by polysome fractionation assays, which allowed detection of polycistronic RNA in lower fractions of the sucrose gradients. These results show that the chloroplast posttranscriptional machinery can indeed detect and translate multigenic sequences that are not of chloroplast origin. In contrast to native transcripts, processed and unprocessed heterologous polycistrons were stable, even in the absence of 3′ untranslated regions (UTRs). Unlike native 5′UTRs, heterologous secondary structures or 5′UTRs showed efficient translational enhancement independent of cellular control. Abundant read-through transcripts were observed in the presence of chloroplast 3′UTRs but they were efficiently processed at introns present within the native operon. Heterologous genes regulated by the psbA (the photosystem II polypeptide D1) promoter, 5′ and 3′UTRs have greater abundance of transcripts than the endogenous psbA gene because transgenes were integrated into the inverted repeat region. Addressing questions about polycistrons, and the sequences required for their processing and transcript stability, are essential in chloroplast metabolic engineering. Knowledge of such factors would enable engineering of foreign pathways independent of the chloroplast complex posttranscriptional regulatory machinery.

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© American Society of Plant Biologists.


At the time of publication, author Henry Daniell was affiliated with the University of Central Florida. Currently, (s)he is a faculty member at the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Dentistry Commons



Date Posted: 01 March 2022

This document has been peer reviewed.