How To Grow Tobacco At Home
Tobacco plants, assembly-defective phaseolin shows a prolonged association with BiP (Pedrazzini et al. 1994 Foresti et al. 2003), and is degraded by a pathway that is not affected by brefeldin A (BFA), a fungal metabolite that blocks Golgi-mediated traffic to the vacuole (Pedrazzini et al. 1997 Nebenfuhr et al.
A second research example is somewhat farther along. As discussed in Transgenic Environmental Biosensors, some bacteria can detect explosive compounds such as TNT, and genetic engineers have built upon this native ability by fusing reporter transgenes to the bacterial sensor genes such that the microbes fluoresce when grown in contact with landmines. Several plant species likewise can degrade TNT and related explosive compounds such as nitro-glycerin, albeit at modest efficiencies. Recently, a nitroreductase gene was isolated from bacterial colonies and inserted into tobacco plants. These transgenic seedlings tolerate TNT and nitroglycerin far better than do non-transgenic controls and apparently break down nitroglycerin at about double the normal pace. This gives a substantial boost to prospects that plantations of transgenic plants may someday help decontaminate the thousands of acres of polluted land and rivers near sites that produce, store, and dispose of munitions.
About half of the genetically transformed plants manufactured human hemoglobin in assayable quantities. The basic science was impressive, and it also raised the hope that transgenic crops someday might augment traditional blood drives as a source of critical blood components. This approach would offer another advantage as well. The plant-generated blood factors, having been passed through the purifying process of transgenic insertion, would automatically be cleansed of infectious disease agents that otherwise can compromise the safety of conventional blood supplies. For reasons of historical precedent and ease of DNA transformation, tobacco plants have been experimental workhorses for exploring many such possibilities. Since the mid-1990s, tobacco strains have been engineered to carry a wide variety of human transgenes specifying proteins such as highly specific antibodies intended to fight pathogens therapeutic enzymes, such as b-glucocerebrosidase that could find use...
Another toxin found in plants, in particular tobacco (which is similar to coniine and is another alkaloid), is nicotine. This substance, with which we are all familiar, is a very toxic chemical, and its presence in cigarette smoke is the essential ingredient that smokers crave. The tobacco plant and the habit of smoking the leaves, known as tobago, was probably first seen by Columbus and his crew in South America. Sir Walter Raleigh also saw the plant in his travels to the new continent of America. Leaves from the plant were sent back to Europe in the mid sixteenth century, and an explorer by the name of Jean Nicot de Villemain sent some seeds back to Europe. He helped to popularize the habit as a panacea, which became widespread in the sixteenth century. From the explorer's name and the name given to the practice of smoking, the plant was called Nicotiana tabacum. The active substance it contained, isolated in 1828, was called nicotine.
In 1886 Adolf Mayer, a German scientist, was researching the tobacco mosaic disease, so called because it left the leaves of the tobacco plant shriveled and mottled. Mayer believed that the disease was caused by a bacterium, but he failed to isolate the elusive organism. In 1892 Russian scientist Dmitri Ivanovski ruled out the possibility that a bacterium caused all the damage to the tobacco plant. He suggested that a smaller pathogen must be at work, possibly a toxin. It was not until six years later that Martinus Beijerinck, a scientist from the Netherlands, showed that the disease was indeed caused by an infectious agent smaller than any other life-form known.
Bean plants have been genetically engineered for improved canning characteristics such as firm texture and nonsplitting seed coats. Rice strains have been engineered to express particular proteins that prolong the grain-filling period of the plant, thereby improving crop yield. Experimental tobacco plants have been engineered to express an antigen associated with the hepatitis B virus, the purpose being to develop antibodies of use in human medicine. A commercially available strain of transgenic corn produces avidin, a protein (otherwise found in birds) that is useful to the biochemical industry in purification procedures for important molecules such as biotin. Genetic strains of cotton have been engineered for better fiber performance. Rapeseed plants have been genetically altered to provide improved raw materials for soaps and detergents. Flowering mustard plants are under investigation that produce cellulase, an enzymatic protein used in the production of alcohol....
As a molecular site for plant genetic engineering, cpDNA has another potential advantage over nuclear DNA it normally occurs in hundreds or even thousands of copies per cell. Thus, at least in principle, some cpDNA-carried transgenes might be expressed at very high levels in plant tissues. In one such example, researchers inserted the human gene for somatotropin into tobacco plants and found that the GM plants produced this protein in remarkably high concentrations (300-fold greater than transgenes similarly placed in the plants' nuclear DNA). Somatotropin is a valuable therapeutic compound for treating hypopituitary dwarfism in children (see chapter 3). Results from the tobacco experiments highlight the potential of cpDNA as an efficient vehicle for mass-producing pharmaceutical proteins from GM plants.
Inorganic arsenic salts are also present in pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, paints, and tobacco plants. If transmitted to water, they accumulate in fish, mollusks, crustaceans, and algae (Johansen et al., 2000). Transformed into organic salts, they reach the gastrointestinal tract via food and are delivered to liver, spleen, kidneys, and lungs. Arsenic is deposited in skin, nails, and hair.
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