Containment of herbicide resistance through genetic engineering of the chloroplast genome

Nat Biotechnol. 1998 Apr;16(4):345-8. doi: 10.1038/nbt0498-345.


Glyphosate is a potent herbicide. It works by competitive inhibition of the enzyme 5-enol-pyruvyl shikimate-3-phosphate synthase (EPSPS), which catalyzes an essential step in the aromatic amino acid biosynthetic pathway. We report the genetic engineering of herbicide resistance by stable integration of the petunia EPSPS gene into the tobacco chloroplast genome using the tobacco or universal vector. Southern blot analysis confirms stable integration of the EPSPS gene into all of the chloroplast genomes (5000-10,000 copies per cell) of transgenic plants. Seeds obtained after the first self-cross of transgenic plants germinated and grew normally in the presence of the selectable marker, whereas the control seedlings were bleached. While control plants were extremely sensitive to glyphosate, transgenic plants survived sprays of high concentrations of glyphosate. Chloroplast transformation provides containment of foreign genes because plastid transgenes are not transmitted by pollen. The escape of foreign genes via pollen is a serious environmental concern in nuclear transgenic plants because of the high rates of gene flow from crops to wild weedy relatives.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • 3-Phosphoshikimate 1-Carboxyvinyltransferase
  • Alkyl and Aryl Transferases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Alkyl and Aryl Transferases / genetics*
  • Chloroplasts*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Genetic Engineering*
  • Genetic Vectors
  • Genome, Plant*
  • Glycine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Glycine / pharmacology
  • Herbicides / pharmacology*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / drug effects*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / genetics
  • Transformation, Genetic


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Herbicides
  • glyphosate
  • Alkyl and Aryl Transferases
  • 3-Phosphoshikimate 1-Carboxyvinyltransferase
  • Glycine