Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana L.) is a small tree or large shrub widely distributed across the northern Great Plains in the United States and Canada. Native to North America, chokecherry is well adapted to a variety of severe conditions such as alkaline soils and harsh Winters and is a valuable food resource and shelter for wildlife. Chokecherry is one of the native species (pincherry, cranberry, blueberry, and so on) used in small fruit production for beverages, fresh fruit, dried fruit products, and wine. It is also used as an ornamental plant because of the beautiful white flowers in Spring and colorful leaves and fruits in Fall.
The development of the native fruit industry in the northern Great Plains is largely impeded by lack of high-quality and high-yield cultivars. Chokecherry suffers several diseases, including black knot and X-disease (incited by a cell-wall-less prokaryotic phytoplasma) (Guo et al., 1996). The damage by these diseases is severe. No effective methods are available to control these diseases. These diseases and infected trees can only be removed. Therefore, utilization of disease-resistant plants is the best method to manage these diseases. Conventional approaches for chokecherry breeding is generally difficult and time-consuming because of its high heterozygosity, polyploidy, and long juvenile period. Thus, genetic engineering offers a useful tool to complement the conventional breeding method for chokecherry improvement.
Transgenic plants have been obtained in many woody species (Poupin and Arce-Johnson, 2005). In the genus Prunus, transformation of several species have been documented, including peach (Hammerschlag and Smigocki, 1998; Pérez-Clemente et al., 2004; Scorza et al., 1995a), plum (Scorza et al., 1995a, 1995b; Yancheva et al., 2002), almond (Ainsley et al., 2002; Miguel and Oliveira, 1999), apricot (Petri et al., 2004), and cherry (Dolgov et al., 1999; Song and Sink, 2006). However, most of these studies used immature tissues (immature embryos) or leaves from a juvenile plant and very few studies recovered whole transgenic plants. To our knowledge, only Dolgov et al. (1999) and Song and Sink (2006) reported that transgenic plants were regenerated from leaf tissues of mature cherry species and no research has been reported on chokecherry transformation.
This study was carried out to develop a gene transformation protocol for future gene transfer of chokecherry. The method of genetic transformation of chokecherry might be also useful for genetic engineering of other Prunus species.
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