Engineered minichromosomes offer an enormous opportunity to plant biotechnology as they have the potential to simultaneously transfer and stably express multiple genes. Following a top-down approach, we truncated endogenous chromosomes in barley (Hordeum vulgare) by Agrobacterium-mediated transfer of T-DNA constructs containing telomere sequences. Blocks of Arabidopsis-like telomeric repeats were inserted into a binary vector suitable for stable transformation. After transfer of these constructs into immature embryos of diploid and tetraploid barley, chromosome truncation by T-DNA-induced de novo formation of telomeres could be confirmed by fluorescent in situ hybridisation, primer extension telomere repeat amplification and DNA gel blot analysis in regenerated plants. Telomere seeding connected to chromosome truncation was found in tetraploid plants only, indicating that genetic redundancy facilitates recovery of shortened chromosomes. Truncated chromosomes were transmissible in sexual reproduction, but were inherited at rates lower than expected according to Mendelian rules.
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