Background: Sulfonamide resistance is conferred by the sulI gene found on many Enterobacteriaceae R plasmids and Tn21 type transposons. The sulI gene encodes a sulfonamide insensitive dihydropteroate synthase enzyme required for folate biosynthesis. Transformation of tobacco, potato or Arabidopsis using sulI as a selectable marker generates sulfadiazine-resistant plants. Typically sulI-based selection of transgenic plants is performed on tissue culture media under sterile conditions.
Findings: A set of novel binary vectors containing a sulI selectable marker expression cassette were constructed and used to generate transgenic Arabidopsis. We demonstrate that the sulI selectable marker can be utilized for direct selection of plants grown in soil with a simple foliar spray application procedure. A highly effective and inexpensive high throughput screening strategy to identify transgenic Arabidopsis without use of tissue culture was developed.
Conclusion: Novel sulI-containing Agrobacterium binary vectors designed to over-express a gene of interest or to characterize a test promoter in transgenic plants have been constructed. These new vector tools combined with the various beneficial attributes of sulfonamide selection and the simple foliar screening strategy provide an advantageous alternative for plant biotechnology researchers. The set of binary vectors is freely available upon request.