Lysine racemase: a novel non-antibiotic selectable marker for plant transformation

Plant Mol Biol. 2010 Jan;72(1-2):153-69. doi: 10.1007/s11103-009-9558-y. Epub 2009 Oct 16.


A non-antibiotic based selection system using L-lysine as selection agent and the lysine racemase (lyr) as selectable marker gene for plant transformation was established in this study. L-lysine was toxic to plants, and converted by Lyr into D-lysine which would subsequently be used by the transgenic plants as nitrogen source. Transgenic tobacco and Arabidopsis plants were successfully recovered on L-lysine medium at efficiencies of 23 and 2.4%, respectively. Phenotypic characterization of transgenic plants clearly revealed the expression of normal growth and developmental characteristics as that of wild-type plants, suggesting no pleiotropic effects associated with the lyr gene. The specific activity of Lyr in transgenic tobacco plants selected on L: -lysine ranged from 0.77 to 1.06 mU/mg protein, whereas no activity was virtually detectable in the wild-type plants. In addition, the composition of the free amino acids, except aspartic acid, was not affected by the expression of the lyr gene in the transgenic tobacco plants suggesting very limited interference with endogenous amino acid metabolism. Interestingly, our findings also suggested that the plant aspartate kinases may possess an ability to distinguish the enantiomers of lysine for feedback regulation. To our knowledge, this is the first report to demonstrate that the lysine racemase selectable marker system is novel, less controversial and inexpensive than the traditional selection systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Isomerases / genetics
  • Amino Acid Isomerases / metabolism*
  • Arabidopsis / enzymology
  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism
  • Blotting, Southern
  • Blotting, Western
  • Lysine / metabolism
  • Models, Genetic
  • Nicotiana / enzymology
  • Nicotiana / genetics
  • Nicotiana / metabolism
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / enzymology*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / genetics
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / metabolism
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Transformation, Genetic


  • Amino Acid Isomerases
  • lysine racemase
  • Lysine