Plant Cell Reports

, Volume 36, Issue 11, pp 1775–1783 | Cite as

Application of droplet digital PCR to determine copy number of endogenous genes and transgenes in sugarcane

  • Yue Sun
  • Priya Aiyar Joyce
Original Article


Key message

Droplet digital PCR combined with the low copy ACT allele as endogenous reference gene, makes accurate and rapid estimation of gene copy number in Q208 A and Q240 A attainable.


Sugarcane is an important cultivated crop with both high polyploidy and aneuploidy in its 10 Gb genome. Without a known copy number reference gene, it is difficult to accurately estimate the copy number of any gene of interest by PCR-based methods in sugarcane. Recently, a new technology, known as droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) has been developed which can measure the absolute amount of the target DNA in a given sample. In this study, we deduced the true copy number of three endogenous genes, actin depolymerizing factor (ADF), adenine phosphoribosyltransferase (APRT) and actin (ACT) in three Australian sugarcane varieties, using ddPCR by comparing the absolute amounts of the above genes with a transgene of known copy number. A single copy of the ACT allele was detected in Q208 A , two copies in Q240 A , but was absent in Q117. Copy number variation was also observed for both APRT and ADF, and ranged from 9 to 11 in the three tested varieties. Using this newly developed ddPCR method, transgene copy number was successfully determined in 19 transgenic Q208 A and Q240 A events using ACT as the reference endogenous gene. Our study demonstrates that ddPCR can be used for high-throughput genetic analysis and is a quick, accurate and reliable alternative method for gene copy number determination in sugarcane. This discovered ACT allele would be a suitable endogenous reference gene for future gene copy number variation and dosage studies of functional genes in Q208 A and Q240 A .


Droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) Sugarcane Copy number Brown rust resistance locus (Bru1) 



We thank Dr Bert Collard and Dr Frikkie Botha for providing critical suggestion to improve this paper and Kate Wathen-Dunn for performing the Southern blots. We gratefully acknowledge Sugar Research Australia for funding the research. We also thank DuPont for supplying the gat4621 transgene.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sugar Research AustraliaIndooroopillyAustralia

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