Transfer of genes from heterologous species provides the means of selectively introducing new traits into crop plants and expanding the gene pool beyond what has been available to traditional breeding systems. With the recent advances in genetic engineering of plants, it is now feasible to introduce into crop plants, genes that have previously been inaccessible to the conventional plant breeder, or which did not exist in the crop of interest. This holds a tremendous potential for the genetic enhancement of important food crops. However, the availability of efficient transformation methods to introduce foreign DNA can be a substantial barrier to the application of recombinant DNA methods in some crop plants. Despite significant advances over the past decades, development of efficient transformation methods can take many years of painstaking research. The major components for the development of transgenic plants include the development of reliable tissue culture regeneration systems, preparation of gene constructs and efficient transformation techniques for the introduction of genes into the crop plants, recovery and multiplication of transgenic plants, molecular and genetic characterization of transgenic plants for stable and efficient gene expression, transfer of genes to elite cultivars by conventional breeding methods if required, and the evaluation of transgenic plants for their effectiveness in alleviating the biotic and abiotic stresses without being an environmental biohazard. Amongst these, protocols for the introduction of genes, including the efficient regeneration of shoots in tissue cultures, and transformation methods can be major bottlenecks to the application of genetic transformation technology. Some of the key constraints in transformation procedures and possible solutions for safe development and deployment of transgenic plants for crop improvement are discussed.
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Vol. 41 • No. 2