Tomato plants overexpressing phytoene synthase gene were stunted
Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum mill.).
Phytoene synthase gene (Psy1) from the tomato fused to the cauliflower
mosaic virus (CaMV-35S) promoter so that the target gene would be
expressed in all parts of the plant.
Phytoene synthase is an enzyme that catalyzes the transformation of
geranylgeranyl diphosphate (GGDP) to phytoene, the first step in the
formation of carotenoids (essential plant pigments). In tomatoes the
enzyme is usually only expressed in fruits; carotenoids are responsible
for the red color of tomatoes.
Transgenic tomato plants that produce more carotenoids.
The transgenic tomato plants produced high levels of phytoene, and
also more zeta-carotene and lycopene, both of which are precursors to
beta-carotene in the carotenoid synthesis pathway. Carotenoids were produced
and accumulated in parts of the plant that normally do not produce and
accumulate them, such as the seed coat, the seed leaves, abscission zones
(where leaves and fruits break off the stem), and the immature fruit.
The plants with the highest levels of phytoene synthase expression and
carotenoid accumulation showed marked anomalies:
they remained small (dwarfing): controls were 25 cm high after four weeks,
while the high-expression transgenic plants were only 5 cm high
no fruit unless cross-pollinated with wild-type pollen
"severely stunted plants lacked chlorophyll in young leaves" (p. 700)
they showed up to a 30-fold reduction in the production of the hormone
The authors hypothesize that the over-production of phytoene synthase
in the transgenic plants may have caused the nontarget effects because
GGDP is also a substrate both for the formation of gibberellin A1,
which is known to affect plant height, and phytol, which is required for
chlorophyll formation. In other words, the plant may have compensated
for the over-production of carotenoids by reducing gibberellin and
Fray, R., A. Wallace, P. Fraser, D. Valero et al (1995). "Constitutive
Expression of a Fruit Phytoene Synthase Gene in Transgenic Tomatoes
Causes Dwarfism by Redirecting Metabolites from Gibberellin Pathway,"
The Plant Journal vol. 8, pp. 693-701.
Nottingham University, University of London, University of Bristol, UK.
Not on the market as of 2008.
Copyright 2008 The Nature