Adsorption capacity of multiple DNA sources to clay minerals and environmental soil matrices less than previously estimated.
The cultivation and consumption of transgenic crops continues to be a widely debated topic, as the potential ecological impacts are not fully understood. In particular, because antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) have historically been used as selectable markers in the genetic engineering of transgenic crops, it is important to determine if the genetic constructs found in decomposing transgenic crops persist long enough in the environment and if they can be transferred horizontally to indigenous microorganisms. In the present study, we address the question of persistence. Others have also estimated the DNA adsorption capacity of various clays, but have done so by manipulating the surface charge and size of particles tested which may overestimate sorption and underestimate the DNA available for horizontal transfer. In the present study, isotherms were generated using model Calf Thymus DNA and transgenic maize DNA without surface modification. Montmorillonite, kaolinite, and 3 soil mixtures with varying clay content were used in this study. The adsorption capacity of pure montmorillonite and kaolinite minerals was found to be one to two orders of magnitude less than previously estimated likely due to the distribution of clay particle sizes and heteroionic particle surface charge. However, it appears that a substantial amount of DNA is still able to adsorb onto these matrices (up to 200 mg DNA per gram of clay) suggesting the potential availability of free transgenic DNA in the environment may still be significant. Future studies should be conducted to determine the fate of these genes in agricultural soils.
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