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Performance and long-term stability of the barley hordothionin gene in multiple transgenic apple lines

Krens, Frans A., Schaart, Jan G., Groenwold, Remmelt, Walraven, A. Evert J., Hesselink, Thamara, Thissen, Jac T. N. M.
Transgenic research 2011 v.20 no.5 pp. 1113-1123
Venturia inaequalis, apples, barley, gene expression, genes, messenger RNA
Introduction of sustainable scab resistance in elite apple cultivars is of high importance for apple cultivation when aiming at reducing the use of chemical crop protectants. Genetic modification (GM) allows the rapid introduction of resistance genes directly into high quality apple cultivars. Resistance genes can be derived from apple itself but genetic modification also opens up the possibility to use other, non-host resistance genes. A prerequisite for application is the long-term performance and stability of the gene annex trait in the field. For this study, we produced and selected a series of transgenic apple lines of two cultivars, i.e. ‘Elstar’ and ‘Gala’ in which the barley hordothionin gene (hth) was introduced. After multiplication, the GM hth-lines, non-GM susceptible and resistant controls and GM non-hth controls were planted in a random block design in a field trial in 40 replicates. Scab resistance was monitored after artificial inoculation (first year) and after natural infection (subsequent years). After the trial period, the level of expression of the hth gene was checked by quantitative RT-PCR. Four of the six GM hth apple lines proved to be significantly less susceptible to apple scab and this trait was found to be stable for the entire 4-year period. Hth expression at the mRNA level was also stable.