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Genetic Modification in Plants

Genetic Modification in Plants

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Published by Anu CN

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Published by: Anu CN on Sep 07, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Genetic modification involves altering an organism's DNA.This can be done by altering an existing section of DNA, or by adding anew gene altogether. A gene is a code that governs how we appear andwhat characteristics we have.
Like animals, plants have genes too. Genes decide thecolour of flowers, and how tall a plant can grow. Like people, thecharacteristics of a plant will be transferred to its children, the plant seeds,which grow into new plants. When a scientist genetically modifies a plant,they insert a foreign gene in the plant's own genes. This might be a genefrom a bacterium resistant to pesticide, for example. The result is that theplant receives the characteristics held within the genetic code. Consequently,the genetically modified plant also becomes able to withstand pesticides. Notonly genetic modification can be used to change the plant genes.Spontaneous changes, radiation, chemicals and traditional processing canalso alter the characteristics of a plant or animal. Spontaneous alteration of genes takes place naturally and sometimes with no effect. A spontaneousalteration can lead to the development of both positive and negativecharacteristics. The method is not particularly good if the intention is tocreate specific changes.
Genetically modified plants
are genetically engineered tocontain one or moregenesof another species. The aim is to introduce anew trait to the plant species which does not occur naturally in this species,for example resistance to certain pests, diseases or environmental conditions,or the production of a certain nutrient or pharmaceutical agent.Genetically modified plants are often called "
", as theycontain one or moretransgenesfrom other organisms. However , this termalso includes plants in which the transgene was integrated by naturallyoccurring processes.There are two common approaches to genetically engineer plants: Mosttransgenic plants are generated by the biolistic method (particle gun) or by
mediated transformation.
In the
Biolistic Method
,DNAis bound to tiny particles of gold ortungsten which are subsequently "shot" into plant tissue or single plantcells under high pressure. The accelerated particles penetrate both thecell wallandmembranes.The DNA separates from the metal and is integrated into the plantgenomeinside thenucleus.This method has been applied successfully for many cultivated crops, especiallymonocotslike wheat or maize, for which a transformation with thehelp of 
Agrobacterium tumefaciens 
is less suitable. A disadvantage of this procedure is the damage done to the cellular tissue.
are natural plant parasites, and their natural ability totransfer genes is used for the development of genetically engineeredplants. To create a suitable environment for themselves, theseAgrobacteria insert their genes into plant hosts, resulting in aproliferation of plant cells near the soil level (crown gall). The geneticinformation for tumour growth is encoded on a mobile, circular DNAfragment(plasmid). When Agrobacterium infects a plant, it transfers so-calledT-DNAto a random site in the plant genome. The bacterial T-DNA is cut out of the bacterial plasmid and replaced with the desiredforeign gene. The bacterium is used as a means of transportingforeign genes into plants(vector).
This method works especially well fordicotelydenous plants like potatoes, tomatoes, and tobacco.
 Agrobacteria are less suitable for introducing foreign genes to cropslike wheat and maize.
Genetic modification of plants occurs in several stages:
An organism that has the desired characteristic is identified.
The specific gene that produces this characteristic is located and cutout of the
plant’s DNA.
To get the gene into the cells of the plant being modified, the geneneeds to be attached to a carrier. A piece of bacterial DNA called aplasmid is joined to the gene to act as the carrier.
A type of switch, called a ‘promoter’, is also included with the
combined gene and carrier. This helps make sure the gene worksproperly when it is put into the plant being modified. Only a smallnumber of cells in the plant being modified will actually take up thenew gene. To find out which ones have done so, the carrier packageoften also includes a marker gene to identify them.

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