Summary: The development of a protoplast fusion technique for oxytetracycline-producing strains, and its evaluation for the application for a breeding programme, has been described. Treatment of protoplasts with 40% (w/v) PEG 1550 for 30 min gave optimal numbers of recombinants ranging from 1 to 10% of the total progeny. Therefore, by comparison with conjugation, protoplast fusion increased the frequency of recombination by two to three orders of magnitude. The proportion of multiple crossover classes amongst recombinants was higher, by a factor of ten, after protoplast fusion (13.3%) than after conjugation (1.5%). Participation of less frequent complementary genotype doubled from 9.0% in conjugation to 17.9% in protoplast fusion. Overall, this suggested that the opportunities for crossing over in a fusion of protoplasts were spatially and/or temporally extended leading to a loosening of linkage with a near-random assortment of genotypes in a cross. However, by minimizing the multiple crossover classes and calculating allele frequency gradients, it was shown that the protoplast fusion technique allows arrangement of genetic markers on the chromosome. These are ideal characteristics for the recombination of divergent lines in a strain improvement programme.


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