Bacillus thuringiensis cry1C expression from the plastid genome of poplar leads to high mortality of leaf-eating caterpillars

Tree Physiol. 2019 Sep 1;39(9):1525-1532. doi: 10.1093/treephys/tpz073.


Plastid transformation technology has several attractive features compared with traditional nuclear transformation technology. However, only a handful of species are able to be successfully transformed. Here, we report an efficient and stable plastid transformation protocol for poplar, an economically important tree species grown worldwide. We transformed the Bacillus thuringiensis cry1C gene into the poplar plastid genome, and homoplasmic transplastomic poplar was obtained after two to three rounds of regeneration under antibiotic selection for 7-12 months. The transplastomic poplar expressing Cry1C insecticidal protein showed the highest accumulation level in young leaves, which reached up to 20.7 μg g-1 fresh weight, and comparatively low levels in mature and old leaves, and hardly detectable levels in non-green tissues, such as phloem, xylem and roots. Transplastomic poplar showed high toxicity to Hyphantria cunea and Lymantria dispar, two notorious forest pests worldwide, without affecting plant growth. These results are the first successful examples of insect-resistant poplar generation by plastid genome engineering and provide a new avenue for future genetic improvement of poplar plants.

Keywords: Bacillus thuringiensis; caterpillars; insect resistance; plastid genome engineering; poplar.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacillus thuringiensis*
  • Genome, Plastid*
  • Larva
  • Plant Leaves
  • Plants, Genetically Modified
  • Populus*