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Multiplex quantitative PCR for single-reaction genetically modified (GM) plant detection and identification of false-positive GM plants linked to Cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) infection


BACKGROUND:Most genetically modified (GM) plants contain a promoter, P35S, from the plant virus, Cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV), and many have a terminator, TNOS, derived from the bacterium, Agrobacterium tumefaciens. Assays designed to detect GM plants often target the P35S and/or TNOS DNA sequences. However, because the P35S promoter is derived from CaMV, these detection assays can yield false-positives from non-GM plants infected by this naturally-occurring virus. RESULTS:Here we report the development of an assay designed to distinguish CaMV-infected plants from GM plants in a single multiplexed quantitative PCR (qPCR) reaction. Following initial testing and optimization via PCR and singleplex-to-multiplex qPCR on both plasmid and plant DNA, TaqMan qPCR probes with different fluorescence wavelengths were designed to target actin (a positive-control plant gene), P35S, P3 (a CaMV-specific gene), and TNOS. We tested the specificity of our quadruplex qPCR assay using different DNA extracts from organic watercress and both organic and GM canola, all with and without CaMV infection, and by using commercial and industrial samples. The limit of detection (LOD) of each target was determined to be 1% for actin, 0.001% for P35S, and 0.01% for both P3 and TNOS. CONCLUSIONS:This assay was able to distinguish CaMV-infected plants from GM plants in a single multiplexed qPCR reaction for all samples tested in this study, suggesting that this protocol is broadly applicable and readily transferrable to any interested parties with a qPCR platform.

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