Int. J. Dev. Biol. 57: 461 - 465 (2013)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.130063mv
© UPV/EHU Press

Transgenic plants: from first successes to future applications

Mieke Van Lijsebettens1,2,*, Geert Angenon3 and Marc De Block4

1Department of Plant Systems Biology, VIB, 9052 Gent, Belgium, 2Department of Plant Biotechnology and Bioinformatics, Ghent University, 9052 Gent, Belgium, 3Institute for Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, 1050 Brussels, Belgium and 4Bayer CropScience NV, Innovation Center, 9052 Gent, Belgium

ABSTRACT This dialogue was held between the Guest Editors of the Special Issue on “Plant Transgenesis” of the Int. J. Dev. Biol. and Marc De Block. He was one of the first scientists worldwide to obtain transgenic plants transformed with the chimeric selectable marker genes encoding neomycin phosphotransferase and bialaphos that confer resistance against the antibiotic kanamycin and the herbicide Basta®/glufosinate, respectively at the Department of Genetics of Ghent University and, later on, at the spin-off company, Plant Genetic Systems. Today, these two genes are still the most frequently utilized markers in transgene technology. Marc De Block chose to work on the improvement of crops in an industrial environment to help realize the production of superior seeds or products. He was part of the team that developed the male sterility/restorer system in canola (Brassica napus var. napus) that led to the first hybrid lines to be commercialized as successful products of transgene technology. In more than 30 years of research, he developed transformation procedures for numerous crops, designed histochemical, biochemical and physiological assays to monitor plant performance, and made original and innovative contributions to plant biology. Presently, he considers transgenic research part of the toolbox for plant improvement and essential for basic plant research.

Keywords:

neomycin phosphotransferase II gene (nptII), bialaphos resistance gene (bar), ribonuclease gene (barnase), canola, tobacco, potato, cotton

*Corresponding author e-mail: milij@psb.ugent.be