• Open Access

RNAi-mediated Ultra-low gossypol cottonseed trait: performance of transgenic lines under field conditions


Correspondence (Tel 979-862 4795; fax 979-862 3414; email rathore@tamu.edu)


Cottonseed remains a low-value by-product of lint production mainly due to the presence of toxic gossypol that makes it unfit for monogastrics. Ultra-low gossypol cottonseed (ULGCS) lines were developed using RNAi knockdown of δ-cadinene synthase gene(s) in Gossypium hirsutum. The purpose of the current study was to assess the stability and specificity of the ULGCS trait and evaluate the agronomic performance of the transgenic lines. Trials conducted over a period of 3 years show that the ULGCS trait was stable under field conditions and the foliage/floral organs of transgenic lines contained wild-type levels of gossypol and related terpenoids. Although it was a relatively small-scale study, we did not observe any negative effects on either the yield or quality of the fibre and seed in the transgenic lines compared with the nontransgenic parental plants. Compositional analysis was performed on the seeds obtained from plants grown in the field during 2009. As expected, the major difference between the ULGCS and wild-type cottonseeds was in terms of their gossypol levels. With the exception of oil content, the composition of ULGCS was similar to that of nontransgenic cottonseeds. Interestingly, the ULGCS had significantly higher (4%–8%) oil content compared with the seeds from the nontransgenic parent. Field trial results confirmed the stability and specificity of the ULGCS trait suggesting that this RNAi-based product has the potential to be commercially viable. Thus, it may be possible to enhance and expand the nutritional utility of the annual cottonseed output to fulfil the ever-increasing needs of humanity.