Transgene copy number can be positively or negatively associated with transgene expression

Plant Mol Biol. 1993 Jan;21(1):17-26. doi: 10.1007/BF00039614.


Two different types of T-DNA insert were found in tobacco plants transformed with Agrobacterium tumefaciens. High-expressing (H) types had one copy of the T-DNA at a locus and produced high expression of the transgene uidA, as measured by uidA RNA levels and beta-glucuronidase activity; low-expressing (L) types had inverted repeats of the T-DNA at a locus and produced low uidA expression. H-types from different transformants acted additively, and cross-fertilization between two different homozygous transformants with H-type inserts produced F1 plants with GUS activity that equalled the parents and individual F2 plants with 50%, 100%, 150% and 200% of parental values. However, the L-type inserts worked in trans to suppress uidA expression from H-type inserts when both were present in the same genome. Hence when a transformant homozygous for the L-type insert was crossed to one homozygous for the H-type, all plants in the F1 and F2 generations with both types of insert had low GUS activity while F2 segregants that only had the H-type inserts had high GUS activity again. Suppression of the H-type gene was associated with increased methylation of the insert. Particle acceleration was used to introduce further copies of uidA into tissues of the transformants. Regardless of the promoter used, those plants with endogenous L-type inserts showed none of the distinct loci of GUS activity readily visible in material with no inserts, showing that L-type inserts could suppress not only the uidA expression of genomic homologues, but also of copies added in vitro.

MeSH terms

  • Agrobacterium tumefaciens / genetics*
  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Glucuronidase / genetics
  • Glucuronidase / metabolism
  • Plants, Genetically Modified*
  • Plants, Toxic*
  • RNA / genetics
  • RNA / metabolism
  • Tobacco / genetics*
  • Transformation, Genetic


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • T-DNA
  • RNA
  • Glucuronidase