Engineered minichromosomes have been produced in several plant species via telomere-mediated chromosomal truncation. This approach bypasses the complications of the epigenetic nature of centromere function in plants, which has to date precluded the production of minichromosomes by the re-introduction of centromere sequences to a plant cell. Genes to be added to a cleaved chromosome are joined together with telomere repeats on one side. When these constructs are introduced into plant cells, the genes are ligated to the broken chromosomes but the telomere repeats will catalyze the formation of a telomere on the other end cutting the chromosome at that point. Telomere-mediated chromosomal truncation is sufficiently efficient that very small chromosomes can be generated consisting of basically the endogenous centromere and the added transgenes. The added transgenes provide a platform onto which it should be possible to assemble a synthetic chromosome to specification. Combining engineered minichromosomes with doubled haploid breeding should greatly expedite the transfer of transgenes to new lines and to test the interaction of transgenes in new background genotypes. Potential basic and applied applications of synthetic chromosomes are discussed.
KeywordsArtificial chromosomes Synthetic biology B chromosomes Telomeres Genome editing Genetic engineering Centromeres Epigenetics Gene stacking
Variant of histone H3 present at active centromeres
Centromeric retrotransposon maize 2
Binary bacterial artificial chromosome vector for plant transformation
Research on this topic in the author’s laboratory is supported by grant IOS-1339198 from the National Science Foundation.
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