A comparison of constitutive promoters for expression of transgenes in alfalfa (Medicago sativa)

Deborah A. Samac, Mesfin Tesfaye, Melinda Dornbusch, Purev Saruul, Stephen J. Temple

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58 Scopus citations


The activity of constitutive promoters was compared in transgenic alfalfa plants using two marker genes. Three promoters, the 35S promoter from cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV), the cassava vein mosaic virus (CsVMV) promoter, and the sugarcane bacilliform badnavirus (ScBV) promoter were each fused to the β-glucuronidase (gusA) gene. The highest GUS enzyme activity was obtained using the CsVMV promoter and all alfalfa cells assayed by in situ staining had high levels of enzyme activity. The 35S promoter was expressed in leaves, roots, and stems at moderate levels, but the promoter was not active in stem pith cells, root cortical cells, or in the symbiotic zones of nodules. The ScBV promoter was active primarily in vascular tissues throughout the plant. In leaves, GUS activity driven by the CsVMV promoter was approximately 24-fold greater than the activity from the 35S promoter and 38-fold greater than the activity from the ScBV promoter. Five promoters, the double 35S promoter, figwort mosaic virus (FMV) promoter, CsVMV promoter, ScBV promoter, and alfalfa small subunit Rubisco (RbcS) promoter were used to control expression of a cDNA from Trichoderma atroviride encoding an endochitinase (ech42). Highest chitinase activity in leaves, roots, and root nodules was obtained in plants containing the CsVMV:ech42 transgene. Plants expressing the endochitinase were challenged with Phoma medicaginis var. medicaginis, the causal agent of spring black stem and leaf spot of alfalfa. Although endochitinase activity in leaves of transgenic plants was 50- to 2650-fold greater than activity in control plants, none of the transgenic plants showed a consistent increase in disease resistance compared to controls. The high constitutive levels of both GUS and endochitinase activity obtained demonstrate that the CsVMV promoter is useful for high-level transgene expression in alfalfa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)349-361
Number of pages13
JournalTransgenic Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2004


  • (Medicago sativa)
  • (Trichoderma atroviride)
  • Lucerne
  • alfalfa
  • constitutive promoter
  • endochitinase
  • β-glucuronidase

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