The objective of this project is to apply photonics technology to bio-safety management of genetically modified (GM) plants. The conventional method for screening GM plants is through selection using antibiotic resistance markers. There is public concern with such approaches and these are associated with food safety issues, escape of antibiotic resistance genes to pathogenic microorganisms and interference with antibiotic therapy. Thus, the strategy taken in this project is to replace antibiotic resistance markers with fluorescent protein markers that allow for rapid and non-invasive optical screening of genetically modified plants.
In this paper, fibre optic spectroscopy was developed to detect and quantify recombinant green (EGFP) and red (DsRED) fluorescent proteins in vitro and in planta. In vitro detection was first carried out to optimize the sensitivity of the optical system. The bacterial expression vectors carrying the coding regions of EGFP and DsRED were introduced into Escherichia coli host cells and fluorescent proteins were produced following induction with IPTG. Soluble EGFP and DsRED proteins were isolated from lysed bacterial cells and serially diluted for quantitative analysis by fibre optic spectroscopy using different light sources, namely, blue LED (475 nm), tungsten halogen (350 - 1000 nm) and double frequency Nd:YAG green laser (532 nm). Fluorescence near the expected emission wavelengths could be detected up to 320X dilution for EGFP and DsRED with blue LED and 532 nm green laser, respectively, as the excitation source. Tungsten halogen was found to be unsuitable for excitation of both EGFP and DsRED. EGFP was successfully purified by size separation under non-denaturing electrophoretic conditions and quantified. The minimum concentration of EGFP detectable with blue LED excitation was 5 mg/ml.
To determine the capability of spectroscopy detection in planta, transgenic potato hairy roots and whole modified plant lines expressing the fluorescent markers were regenerated. T