Retrovirus-based Transformation System for Plants

Period of Performance: 05/01/2000 - 04/30/2001


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Phytodyne, Inc.
2711 South Loop Drive
Ames, IA 50010
Principal Investigator


Researchers at Iowa State University recently discovered potentially infectious plant retroviruses. Retroviruses are important vehicles for gene transfer in mammals, and their presence in plants suggests that retroviral- based gene transfer methods can now be utilized for a variety of plant species. Phytodyne, Inc. will partner with Iowa State University to develop this technology, which should be more efficient, less expensive and more reliable than current plant transformation methods. Retrovirus-based transformation will accelerate the production of genetically enhanced crops and will enable the biosynthetic capacity of plants to be exploited for the production of food, medicine and raw materials. In Specific Aim 1, candidate replication-competent retroviruses will be constructed for expression in plants. Viral promoters will be altered for high level transcription, and marker genes will be inserted to enable the genetic selection of replication events. In Specific Aim 2, transcription, protein processing and reverse transcription will be monitored to assess viral function. These experiments will provide the foundation for a Phase II proposal in which infectivity will be tested and transformation protocols refined prior to the movement of this technology into the marketplace. PROPOSED COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS: Genetically modified crops offer enormous potential for the production of food, medicine and industrial raw materials. A major limitation in their development is the lack of efficient methods for plant transformation. A retroviral-based plant transformation system promises to be simpler, less costly and more effective than methods currently available. Phytodyne will license this technology to agricultural biotechnology companies and produce transgenic germplasm on a contractual basis.