Sequencing of two transgenic early-flowering poplar lines confirmed vector-free single-locus T-DNA integration
Next-generation sequencing (NGS) approaches are attractive alternatives to the PCRbased characterisation of genetically modified plants for safety assessment and labelling since NGS is highly sensitive to the detection of T-DNA inserts as well as vector backbone sequences in transgenic plants. In this study, two independent transgenic male Populus tremula lines, T193-2 and T195-1, both carrying the FLOWERING LOCUS T gene from Arabidopsis thaliana under control of a heat-inducible promoter (pHSP::AtFT) and the non-transgenic control clone W52, were further characterised by NGS and third-generation sequencing. The results support previous findings that the T-DNA was hemizygously inserted in one genomic locus of each line. However, the T-DNA insertions consist of conglomerations of one or two T-DNA copies together with a small T-DNA fragment without AtFT parts. Based on NGS data, no additional T-DNA splinters or vector backbone sequences could be identified in the genome of the two transgenic lines. Seedlings derived from crosses between the pHSP::AtFT transgenic male parents and female wild type plants are therefore expected to be T-DNA splinter or vector backbone free. Thus, PCR analyses amplifying a partial T-DNA fragment with AtFT-specific primers are sufficient to determine whether the seedlings are transgenic or not. An analysis of 72 second generation-seedlings clearly showed that about 50% of them still reveal the presence of the T-DNA, confirming data already published. To prove if unanticipated genomic changes were induced by T-DNA integration, extended future studies using long-range sequencing technologies are required once a suitable chromosome-level P. tremula reference genome sequence is available.