Field safety assessment of recombination in transgenic grapevines expressing the coat protein gene of Grapevine fanleaf virus

Transgenic Res. 2004 Apr;13(2):165-79. doi: 10.1023/b:trag.0000026075.79097.c9.


One of the major environmental safety issues over transgenic crops containing virus-derived genes relates to the outcome of recombination events between viral transgene transcripts and RNAs from indigenous virus populations. We addressed this issue by assessing the emergence of viable Grapevine fanleaf virus (GFLV) recombinants in transgenic grapevines expressing the GFLV coat protein (CP) gene. Test plants consisted of nontransgenic scions grafted onto transgenic and nontransgenic rootstocks that were exposed over 3 years to nematode-mediated GFLV infection in two distinct vineyard sites. The CP gene of challenging GFLV isolates was amplified from scions by IC-RT-PCR, and characterized by RFLP and nucleotide sequencing using strain F13 as reference since it provided the CP transgene. Analysis of EcoRI and StyI RFLP banding patterns from 347 challenging GFLV isolates and sequence data from 85 variants revealed no characteristics similar to strain F13 and no difference in the molecular variability among isolates from 190 transgenic and 157 nontransgenic plants, or from plants within (253 individuals) or outside (94 individuals) of the two sites. Interestingly, five GFLV recombinants were identified in three nontransgenic plants located outside of the two field settings. This survey indicates that transgenic grapevines did not assist the emergence of viable GFLV recombinants to detectable levels nor did they affect the molecular diversity of indigenous GFLV populations during the trial period. This is the first report on safety assessment of recombination with a transgenic crop expressing a CP gene under field conditions of heavy disease pressure but low, if any, selection pressure against recombinant viruses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Capsid Proteins / genetics*
  • Capsid Proteins / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nematoda / parasitology
  • Plant Diseases / parasitology
  • Plant Viruses / genetics*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / genetics*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / virology*
  • Polymorphism, Restriction Fragment Length
  • Recombination, Genetic*
  • Vitis / genetics*
  • Vitis / virology*


  • Capsid Proteins
  • coat protein, grapevine fanleaf virus