Expression of bar in the plastid genome confers herbicide resistance

K. A. Lutz, J. E. Knapp, P. Maliga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


Phosphinothricin (PPT) is the active component of a family of environmentally safe, nonselective herbicides. Resistance to PPT in transgenic crops has been reported by nuclear expression of a bar transgene encoding phosphinothricin acetyltransferase, a detoxifying enzyme. We report here expression of a bacterial bar gene (b-bar1) in tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum cv Petit Havana) plastids that confers field-level tolerance to Liberty, an herbicide containing PPT. We also describe a second bacterial bar gene (b-bar2) and a codon-optimized synthetic bar (s-bar) gene with significantly elevated levels of expression in plastids (>7% of total soluble cellular protein). Although these genes are expressed at a high level, direct selection thus far did not yield transplastomic clones, indicating that subcellular localization rather than the absolute amount of the enzyme is critical for direct selection of transgenic clones. The codon-modified s-bar gene is poorly expressed in Escherichia coli, a common enteric bacterium, due to differences in codon use. We propose to use codon usage differences as a precautionary measure to prevent expression of marker genes in the unlikely event of horizontal gene transfer from plastids to bacteria. Localization of the bar gene in the plastid genome is an attractive alternative to incorporation in the nuclear genome since there is no transmission of plastid-encoded genes via pollen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1585-1590
Number of pages6
JournalPlant physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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