Ectopic overexpression of asparagine synthetase in transgenic tobacco

Timothy Brears, Christopher Liu, Thomas J. Knight, Gloria M. Coruzzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Here, we monitor the effects of ectopic overexpression of genes for pea asparagine synthetase (AS1) in transgenic tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum). The AS genes of pea and tobacco are normally expressed only during the dark phase of the diurnal growth cycle and specifically in phloem cells. A hybrid gene was constructed in which a pea AS1 cDNA was fused to the cauliflower mosaic virus 35S promoter. The 35S-AS1 gene was therefore ectopically expressed in all cell types in transgenic tobacco and constitutively expressed at high levels in both the light and the dark. Northern analysis demonstrated that the 35S-AS1 transgene was constitutively expressed at high levels in leaves of several independent transformants. Furthermore, amino acid analysis revealed a 10- to 100-fold increase in free asparagine in leaves of transgenic 35S-AS1 plants (construct z127) compared with controls. Plant growth analyses showed increases (although statistically insignificant) in growth phenotype during the vegetative stage of growth in 35S-AS1 transgenic lines. The 35S-AS1 construct was further modified by deletion of the glutamine-binding domain of the enzyme (glnΔAS1; construct z167). By analogy to animal AS, we reasoned that inhibition of glutamine-dependent AS activity might enhance the ammonia-dependent AS activity. The 3- to 19-fold increase in asparagine levels in the transgenic plants expressing glnΔAS1 compared with wild type suggests that the novel AS holoenzyme present in the transgenic plants (glnΔAS1 homodimer) has enhanced ammonia-dependent activity. These data indicate that manipulation of AS expression in transgenic plants causes an increase in nitrogen assimilation into asparagine, which in turn produces effects on plant growth and asparagine biosynthesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1285-1290
Number of pages6
JournalPlant physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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