Reciprocal gene exchange between cultivated sugar beet and wild beets in seed production areas is probably the reason for the occurence of weed beets in sugar beet production fields. Therefore, when releasing transgenic sugar beet plants into the environment, gene transfer to wild beets (Beta vulgaris ssp. maritima) has to be considered. In this study the transfer of BNYVV- (beet necrotic yellow vein virus) resistance and herbicide-tolerance genes from two transgenic sugar beet lines that were released in field experiments in 1993 and 1994 in Germany to different wild beet accessions was investigated. In order to evaluate the consequences of outcrossing, manual pollinations of emasculated wild beet plants with homozygous transgenic sugar beet plants were performed. In the resulting hybrids the transgenes were stably inherited according to Mendelian law. Gene expression in leaves and roots of the hybrids was in the same range as in the original transgenic sugar beet plants. Moreover, it was found that in one of the wild beet accessions, transfer and expression of the BNYVV resistance gene did considerably increase the level of virus resistance.
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