Overexpression of an Arabidopsis thaliana ABC transporter confers kanamycin resistance to transgenic plants

Nat Biotechnol. 2005 Sep;23(9):1177-80. doi: 10.1038/nbt1134. Epub 2005 Aug 21.


Selectable markers of bacterial origin such as the neomycin phosphotransferase type II gene, which can confer kanamycin resistance to transgenic plants, represent an invaluable tool for plant engineering. However, since all currently used antibiotic-resistance genes are of bacterial origin, there have been concerns about horizontal gene transfer from transgenic plants back to bacteria, which may result in antibiotic resistance. Here we characterize a plant gene, Atwbc19, the gene that encodes an Arabidopsis thaliana ATP binding cassette (ABC) transporter and confers antibiotic resistance to transgenic plants. The mechanism of resistance is novel, and the levels of resistance achieved are comparable to those attained through expression of bacterial antibiotic-resistance genes in transgenic tobacco using the CaMV 35S promoter. Because ABC transporters are endogenous to plants, the use of Atwbc19 as a selectable marker in transgenic plants may provide a practical alternative to current bacterial marker genes in terms of the risk for horizontal transfer of resistance genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / metabolism*
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / chemistry
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics*
  • Blotting, Northern
  • Blotting, Southern
  • Carbohydrate Sequence
  • DNA, Bacterial / chemistry
  • Drug Resistance* / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Gene Transfer Techniques
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal
  • Genes, Plant / genetics*
  • Genetic Engineering
  • Genetic Markers
  • Genetic Techniques*
  • Kanamycin / pharmacology*
  • Models, Chemical
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plants, Genetically Modified*
  • Streptomyces / metabolism


  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters
  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Genetic Markers
  • T-DNA
  • Kanamycin