Stable high-level transgene expression in Arabidopsis thaliana using gene silencing mutants and matrix attachment regions

Plant J. 2004 Aug;39(3):440-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-313X.2004.02144.x.


Basic and applied research involving transgenic plants often requires consistent high-level expression of transgenes. However, high inter-transformant variability of transgene expression caused by various phenomena, including gene silencing, is frequently observed. Here, we show that stable, high-level transgene expression is obtained using Arabidopsis thaliana post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS) sgs2 and sgs3 mutants. In populations of first generation (T1) A. thaliana plants transformed with a beta-glucuronidase (GUS) gene (uidA) driven by the 35S cauliflower mosaic virus promoter (p35S), the incidence of highly expressing transformants shifted from 20% in wild type background to 100% in sgs2 and sgs3 backgrounds. Likewise, when sgs2 mutants were transformed with a cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 6 gene under control of p35S, all transformants showed a clear phenotype typified by serrated leaves, whereas such phenotype was only observed in about one of five wild type transformants. p35S-driven uidA expression remained high and steady in T2 sgs2 and sgs3 transformants, in marked contrast to the variable expression patterns observed in wild type T2 populations. We further show that T-DNA constructs flanked by matrix attachment regions of the chicken lysozyme gene (chiMARs) cause a boost in GUS activity by fivefold in sgs2 and 12-fold in sgs3 plants, reaching up to 10% of the total soluble proteins, whereas no such boost is observed in the wild type background. MAR-based plant transformation vectors used in a PTGS mutant background might be of high value for efficient high-throughput screening of transgene-based phenotypes as well as for obtaining extremely high transgene expression in plants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics*
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Gene Expression
  • Genes, Plant
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Glucuronidase / genetics
  • Matrix Attachment Regions
  • Mutation
  • Phenotype
  • Plants, Genetically Modified
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • RNA Interference*


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • T-DNA
  • Glucuronidase