Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Plants, Soils, and Insects

Major Professor

C. Neal Stewart, Jr.

Committee Members

Robert M. Augé, Arnold M. Saxton, Zong-Ming Cheng, Feng Chen


Genetic engineering is important to enhance crop characteristics and certain traits. Genetically engineered crop cultivation brings environmental and ecological concerns with the potential of unwanted transgene escape and introgression. Transgene escape has been considered as a major environmental and regulatory concern. This concern could be alleviated by appropriate biocontainment strategies. Therefore, it is important to develop efficient and reliable biocontainment strategies.

Removing transgenes from pollen has been known to be the most environmentally friendly biocontainment strategy. A transgene excision vector containing a codon optimized serine resolvase CinH recombinase (CinH) and its recognition sites RS2 were constructed and transformed into tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum cv. Xanthi). In this system, the pollen-specific LAT52 promoter from tomato was employed to control the expression of CinH recombinase. Loss of expression of a green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene under the control of the LAT59 promoter from tomato was used as an indicator of transgene excision. Efficiency of transgene excision from pollen was determined by flow cytometry (FCM)-based pollen screening. While a transgenic event in the absence of CinH recombinase contained about 70% of GFP-synthesizing pollen, three single-copy transgene events contained less than 1% of GFP-synthesizing pollen based on 30,000 pollen grains analyzed per event. This suggests that CinH-RS2 recombination system could be effectively utilized for transgene biocontainment.

A novel approach for selective male sterility in pollen was developed and evaluated as a biocontainment strategy. Overexpression of the EcoRI restriction endonuclease caused pollen ablation and/or infertility in tobacco, but exhibited normal phenotypes when compared to non-transgenic tobacco. Three EcoRI contained 0% GFP positive pollen, while GFP control plants contained 64% GFP positive pollen based on 9,000 pollen grains analyzed by flow cytometry-based transgenic pollen screening method. However, seven EcoRI events appeared to have 100% efficiency on selective male sterility based on the test-crosses. The results suggested that this selective male sterility could be used as a highly efficient and reliable biocontainment strategy for genetically engineered crop cultivation.

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