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Keywords:

  • phenotype;
  • pleiotropic effects;
  • position effects;
  • selectable marker genes;
  • transcriptome;
  • transgenic plants;
  • unintended effects

Summary

The intended effect of a selectable marker gene is to confer a novel trait that allows for the selection and recovery of transgenic plants. Unintended effects may also occur as a result of interactions between the selectable marker gene or its regulatory elements and genetic elements at the site of insertion. These are called position effects. Other unintended effects may occur if the selectable marker gene has a range of pleiotropic effects related to the functional and regulatory domains within the coding region or the regulatory elements used to drive expression. Both pleiotropic and position effects may generate unpredictable events depending on the process used for transgenesis and the state of knowledge associated with the selectable marker gene. Although some selectable marker genes, such as the neomycin phosphotransferase type II gene (nptII), have no pleiotropic effects on the transcriptomes of transgenic plants, others, such as the bialaphos resistance gene (bar), have pleiotropic effects. These must be clearly understood and accounted for when evaluating the expression patterns conferred by other co-transforming transgenes under study. The number and kinds of selectable marker genes are large. A detailed understanding of their unintended effects is needed to develop transgenic strategies that will minimize or eliminate unintended and unpredictable changes to plants with newly inserted genes.