Seed-specific immunomodulation of abscisic acid activity induces a developmental switch

EMBO J. 1997 Aug 1;16(15):4489-96. doi: 10.1093/emboj/16.15.4489.


A single-chain Fv antibody (scFv) gene, which has previously been used to immunomodulate abscisic acid (ABA) activity in transgenic tobacco to create a 'wilty' phenotype, was put under control of the seed-specific USP promoter from Vicia faba and used to transform tobacco. Transformants were phenotypically similar to wild-type plants apart from their seeds. Anti-ABA scFv embryo development differed markedly from wild-type embryo development. Seeds which accumulated similar levels of a scFv that binds to oxazolone, a hapten absent from plants, developed like wild-type embryos. Anti-ABA scFv embryos developed green cotyledons containing chloroplasts and accumulated photosynthetic pigments but produced less seed storage protein and oil bodies. Anti-ABA scFv seeds germinated precociously if removed from seed capsules during development but were incapable of germination after drying. Total ABA levels were higher than in wild-type seeds but calculated free ABA levels were near-zero until 21 days after pollination. We show for the first time seed-specific immunomodulation and the resulting switch from the seed maturation programme to a germination programme. We conclude that the immunomodulation of hormones can alter the development programme of target organs, allowing the study of the directly blocked endogenous molecules and manipulation of the system concerned.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abscisic Acid / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Abscisic Acid / immunology
  • Abscisic Acid / metabolism*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Fabaceae / genetics
  • Genes, Plant
  • Immunoglobulin Fragments / genetics
  • Phenotype
  • Plants, Genetically Modified
  • Plants, Medicinal
  • Plants, Toxic
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Protein Engineering
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / immunology
  • Seeds / genetics
  • Seeds / immunology*
  • Seeds / metabolism*
  • Tobacco / genetics
  • Tobacco / immunology
  • Tobacco / metabolism


  • Immunoglobulin Fragments
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • immunoglobulin Fv
  • Abscisic Acid