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Split selectable marker systems utilizing inteins facilitate gene stacking in plants

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Communications Biology
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The ability to stack multiple genes in plants is of great importance in the development of crops with desirable traits but can be challenging due to limited selectable marker options. Here we establish split selectable marker systems using protein splicing elements called “inteins” for Agrobacterium-mediated co-transformation in plants. First, we show that such a split selectable marker system can be used effectively in plants to reconstitute a visible marker, RUBY, from two non-functional fragments through tobacco leaf infiltration. Next, to determine the general applicability of our split selectable marker systems, we demonstrate the utility of these systems in the model plants Arabidopsis and poplar by successfully stacking two reporters eYGFPuv and RUBY, using split Kanamycin or Hygromycin resistance markers. In conclusion, this method enables robust plant co-transformation, providing a valuable tool for the simultaneous insertion of multiple genes into both herbaceous and woody plants efficiently.