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Keywords:

  • GMO (genetically modified organism);
  • unintended effects;
  • transcriptomics;
  • rice;
  • transformation;
  • in vitro culture;
  • fungal resistance;
  • stress

Summary

Besides the intended effects that give a genetically modified (GM) plant the desired trait, unintended differences between GM and non-GM comparable plants may also occur. Profiling technologies allow their identification, and a number of examples demonstrating that unintended effects are limited and diverse have recently been reported. Both from the food safety aspect and for research purposes, it is important to discern unintended changes produced by the transgene and its expression from those that may be attributed to other factors. Here, we show differential expression of around 0.40% transcriptome between conventional rice var. Senia and Senia-afp constitutively expressing the AFP antifungal protein. Analysis of one-fifth of the regulated sequences showed that around 35% of the unintended effects could be attributed to the process used to produce GM plants, based on in vitro tissue culture techniques. A further ∼15% were event specific, and their regulation was attributed to host gene disruption and genome rearrangements at the insertion site, and effects on proximal sequences. Thus, only around half the transcriptional unintended effects could be associated to the transgene itself. A significant number of changes in Senia-afp and Senia are part of the plant response to stress conditions, and around half the sequences for which up-regulation was attributed to the transgene were induced in conventional (but not transgenic) plants after wounding. Unintended effects might, as such, putatively result in widening the self-resistance characteristics because of the transgene in GM plants.