Plant Transformation Methods

Plant Transformation Methods

  • Transformation is defined as the process in which the genetic material of an organism is altered by the integration of new genes into its genome.
  • The transformation is done by using vectors such as plasmids.
  • The importance to produce transgenic plants is to:
    • Improve crop yields.
    • Improvement of varietal traits.
    • transgenic plants have protection against their parasites, pests and harsh weather conditions.


  • The transformation was the first time applied by British Bacteriologist Frederick Griffith in 1928 in diplococcus pneumonia.
  • Transformation using electroporation was developed in the late 1980s.
  • Particle bombardment discovered (gene gun) by John Sanford in the 1980s.

Methods of plant transformation

Indirect method:

Agrobacterium-mediated gene transfer.

Direct methods:

  • Particle gun/biolistic/ballistic method of DNA delivery.
  • Chemical method; Polyethylene glycol (PEG)/protoplast fusion.
  • Laser-induced DNA delivery.
  • Electroporation

Plant Transformation Methods

Image Sources: Gerhard Obermeyer and IntechOpen

Agrobacterium tumefaciens mediated gene transfer

  • Agrobacterium tumefaciens is a natural genetic engineer.
  • It is achieved in two ways:
    • Co-culture with tissue explants.
    • In-plant transformation.

Agrobacterium tumefaciens Characteristics

  • Soil-borne, gram – ve, motile, rod-shaped bacteria that are present in the rhizosphere.
  • Encodes by a tumor-inducing plasmid that is a large (250kbp) plasmid, which is a vector that transfer T-DNA region into the genome of plants host.
  • Causes Crown gall disease.
  • Have able to transferred bacterial genes into the plant genome.
  • Attracted to wound site via chemotaxis in response to chemicals (Sugar and Phenolic molecules: like Acetosyringone) released from damaged plant cells.


Vectors, the DNA carriers must have:

  •   Origin of replication.
  •   Antibiotic-resistant genes.
  •   Give permission to host to grow on selective media.
  •   Increase the volume of a vector in the host cell.
  •   Multiple cloning sites.
  •  Allow insertion of foreign DNA.

Ti plasmid

  • Contains one or more T-DNA region that is integrated into the plant host genome of size~12to24kb.
  • Right and left border sequence(24bp) which will be transferred into the host plant genome.
  • Contain a virregion~40kb, at least 8~11virgenes.

Process of T-DNA transfer and integration

1. Signal recognition by Agrobacterium:

  • Agrobacterium perceives signals such as sugar and phenolic compounds(Acetosyrinzon) which are released from plants when got wounded.

2. Attachment to cells of the plant

  • Have two processes:
  • Initial attachment via polysaccharide.
  • Bacteria produce cellulose fiber mesh.
  • Vir genes involved in the attachment of bacterial cells to plant cells and this attachment is stable.

3. Induction of Vir gene

  • Vir-A senses are phenolic and phosphorylating due to activated VirG.
  • Vir genes expression are induces by VirG.

4. T-strand production

  • The VirD1 (having topoisomerase activity) that is bound to RB.
  • After binding it relaxes the supercoiling that induce the action of VirD2 (as endonuclease activity) and binds to 5’ end.
  • Similarly, at the site of nick 3’ end produced and serves as a primer.
  • As a result, virE is displaced by a single strand of T-DNA.
  • The T-DNA is again nicked at LB to generate an ssT-DNA copy.
  • The protection of VirE2 is done by nucleases.
  • VirB is necessary for virulence which has ATPase activity.
  • It also helps in T_DNA delivery into the plant cell through a nuclear pore complex.

5. Transfer of Vir proteins and T-DNA into the plant nuclear localization

  • The single-stranded T-DNA is converted to double-stranded by replication in the nucleus.
  • The dsT- DNA integrates from multiple sites into the host genome by unauthorized recombination.
  • Practical application of Agrobacterium-mediated plant transformation
  • Agrobacterium-mediated transformation is considering to induce less re-arrangement of the transgene.

Direct Methods

1. Particle gun method

  • A biolistic particle or gene gun system are designed for the transformation of the plant.
  • It is a device that injects cells with genetic information.

2. Polyethylene (glycol mediated transformation) the chemical method

  • The transformation of plant protoplast done with naked DNA through treatment with PEG, the treatment also takes place in the presence of divalent cations.
  • The divalent cations and PEG de-stabilize the plant protoplast plasma membrane and provide it permeable to naked DNA.
  • DNA then enters into the nucleus and integrates into the genome of the host.


  • Protoplast are isolated and transformed into a number of plant species.


  • Regeneration of fertile plants from protoplasts is problematic for some species because of secondary metabolites accumulation or any compounds.
  • The transformation of DNA is susceptible to rearrangement and degradation.

3. Electroporation

  •  The delivery of DNA into the plant cells and protoplasts is done through electroporation.
  • Plant regulatory sequence is necessary for the gene of interest.
  • After that incubate the plant material in a buffer solution that contains DNA and subjected to high-voltage electric current.
  • The DNA than transfer through high voltage and induced opening in the plasma membrane and enter into the plant genome.
  • It may be used to transform all the major cereals particularly rice, wheat, maize.


  • Both intact cells and tissue can be transformed.
  • The efficiency of transformation depends upon the plant materials, electroporation and tissue treatment conditions used for transformation.


  • Only 40 to 50% of incubated cells receive DNA.
  • Around 50% of the transformed cells can survive.

4. Laser-induced DNA delivery

  • LASERs produce holes that are transient in the cell membrane in which DNA enters into the cell cytoplasm.
  • But, no information about gene expression and stable integration.


  • The cereal crops that are transformed are widely used which is difficult to transform with agrobacterium.


  • They have a tendency to guide better frequency of transgene rearrangement and better copy range.
  • This can result in a high frequency of gene silencing.



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Plant Transformation Methods

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