Boron Transporter

BORON TRANSPORTER

PRIORITY CLAIM

The present application claims priority to Australian provisional patent application 2007900157, the contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to boron transporters and, in particular, to boron transporters derived from plants. The present invention also relates to methods that utilise boron transporters, such as methods for modulating boron transport in cells and methods for determining the level or rate of boron transport in a cell or organism on the basis of the expression level of one or more boron transporters.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Boron is an essential plant micronutrient that is toxic at high soil concentrations. The range between boron deficiency and toxicity is narrow for plants, and imbalances in boron nutrition are common in agriculture. Whilst deficiency may be addressed easily through the application of boron rich fertilisers, boron toxicity is more difficult to manage agronomically. Boron levels are generally higher in subsoils than the surface root zone, making amelioration through soil modification difficult and impractical.

Boron toxicity is a major limitation to cereal production in southern Australia, and is also a problem in arid and semi-arid parts of the world including Asia and Africa. Yield penalties of up to 17% between adjacent areas of barley have been attributed to differences in shoot boron concentration. Similar figures (11%) have been reported for wheat in southern Australia. Soils high in boron tend to be associated with low rainfall environments (250-450 mm per year) and primarily derived from clay rich sediments of marine origin. Increasingly, boron toxicity is becoming associated with irrigated environments, where groundwater application contributes to an excessive accumulation of boron. Frequently boron is found at high concentrations in saline soils.

The known function of boron in plants is as a structural and functional component of cells walls and the plasma membrane. In plants boron exists primarily as boric acid [B(OH)3J, and to a lesser extent at neutral and alkaline pH as the borate anion [B(OH)C ]. Under adequate boron supply, uptake from the soil into plant roots via the plasma membrane is a passive process, and one that occurs rapidly: The half-time of influx into barley roots is approximately six minutes. Inside the plant cell, the ability of boron to form stable complexes with hydroxy compounds has been studied extensively. Examples of molecules that form complexes with boric acid include ribose, apiose, sorbitol and other polyols, glycoproteins and glycolipids. The binding of boron to apiose, the central component of the rhamnogalacturonan-II complex in primary plant cell walls is needed to maintain the normal physical properties of cell walls.

In vascular plants, boron moves from the roots within the transpiration stream and accumulates at the tips of older leaves. A sharp concentration gradient is observed within the leaf, and toxicity symptoms are directly correlated with boron distribution. Symptoms appear first at the tips of older leaves, where a high boron concentration leads to chlorosis and necrosis, first extending down the leaf margins. In barley this generally occurs at cellular concentrations in excess of 23 mM.

Variation in tolerance to boron toxicity exists both between and within species. The primary mechanism of tolerance appears to be similar for all species studied: an ability to maintain low concentrations of boron in plant tissues. However, the molecular basis for this is currently unknown. Boron tolerant genotypes generally accumulate lower concentrations of boron than intolerant genotypes, suggesting that exclusion rather than internal tolerance mechanisms are operating. It is however likely that other mechanisms related to internal tissue tolerance to boron are present in plants and have a significant role.

Interval regression mapping in both wheat and barley has identified the chromosomal location of several QTL for various boron tolerance traits. In barley, four QTL (on 2HS, 3HS, 4HL, 6HL) have been identified that have detectable effects on boron tolerance in barley. These are: Leaf Symptom Expression (a measure of severity of symptoms on the basis of leaf damage), Relative Root Length (root length at boron 100 mg/L4 expressed as a percentage of the root length at boron 0 mg/L1), Whole-shoot boron Concentration (shoot boron concentration of 5 week old plants as measured by Inductively Coupled Plasma Spectrometry, ICP) and Dry Matter Production (dry weight).

TABLE 1 - Percentage variation associated with boron tolerance QTL:

Parameter Percentage trait variation

It would be desirable to identify the nucleotide and amino acid sequences which encode boron transporters, and a way in which these could be expressed in plant tissues to avoid boron toxicity. The identification of such sequences would allow, among other things, the introduction, removal or modulation of boron transport activity in a range of cells and/or organisms, including plant cells and plants.

Reference to any prior art in this specification is not, and should not be taken as, an acknowledgment or any form of suggestion that this prior art forms part of the common general knowledge in any country.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is predicated, in part, on the identification of polypeptides, and their corresponding nucleic acids, that encode boron transporter molecules.

Throughout the text, the word boron is used as shorthand to refer to boron-containing compounds such as boric acid (H3BO3), the borate anion (H4BO4) and various boron- containing organic compounds, as opposed to elemental B specifically.

In particular, the present invention is predicated in part on the isolation of a polypeptide sequence from barley (Hordeum vulgare) which encodes a boron transporter that is associated with increased boron tolerance in at least the barley cultivars Sahara 3771. This polypeptide has been designated HvBotl, and comprises the amino acid sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 2. The open reading frame nucleic acid sequence which encodes the HvBotl polypeptide has also been determined. This nucleotide sequence is designated as HvBotl and comprises the nucleotide sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 1.

Accordingly, in a first aspect, the present invention provides an isolated nucleic acid comprising a nucleotide sequence selected from the list consisting of: (i) a nucleotide sequence which encodes a polypeptide comprising the amino acid sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 2; (ii) a nucleotide sequence which encodes a functional homolog of the polypeptide comprising the amino acid sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 2;

(iii) a nucleotide sequence which is the complement or reverse complement of the nucleotide sequence referred to at (i) or (ii); and (iv) a fragment of the nucleotide sequence referred to at any of (i), (ii) or (iii).

The nucleotide sequences of the first aspect of the invention are also referred to herein as "Botl nucleic acids" or "Bo tl nucleic acid sequences".

Generally, the Botl nucleic acids of the present invention encode boron-transporter polypeptides.

In specific embodiments, the isolated Botl nucleic acid comprises a nucleic acid selected from the list consisting of:

(i) a nucleic acid comprising the nucleotide sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 1;

(ii) a nucleic acid comprising a nucleotide sequence which is at least 81% identical to the nucleotide sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 1;

(iii) a nucleic acid which hybridizes to a nucleic acid comprising the nucleotide sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 1 under stringent conditions;

(iv) a nucleic acid comprising a nucleotide sequence which is the complement or reverse complement of any one of (i) to (iii); and

(v) a fragment of any of (i), (ii), (iii) or (iv).

The Botl nucleic acids of the present invention may be derived from any source. For example, the Botl nucleic acids may be derived from an organism, such as a plant.

In a second aspect, the present invention provides a nucleic acid construct or vector comprising the nucleic acid of the first aspect of the invention.

In a third aspect, the present invention provides a genetically modified cell comprising an introduced nucleic acid selected from the list consisting of:

(i) an isolated Botl nucleic acid of the first aspect of the invention; and

(ii) a nucleic acid construct or vector of the second aspect of the invention. Furthermore, in a fourth aspect, the present invention provides a multicellular structure comprising one or more cells of the third aspect of the invention.

As referred to herein, a "multicellular structure" includes any aggregation of one or more cells. As such, a multicellular structure specifically encompasses tissues, organs, whole organisms and parts thereof. Furthermore, a multicellular structure should also be understood to encompass multicellular aggregations of cultured cells such as colonies, plant calli, suspension cultures and the like.

In a fifth aspect, the present invention provides an isolated polypeptide selected from the list consisting of:

(i) a polypeptide comprising the amino acid sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 2;

(ii) a polypeptide which is a functional homolog of (i); and

(iii) a fragment of (i) or (ii).

The polypeptides of the invention are also referred to herein as Botl polypeptides.

Generally, the Botl polypeptides of the present invention comprise boron transporter polypeptides.

The isolated polypeptides and fragments thereof of the present invention may also be useful, for example, in the generation of antibodies that bind to Botl polypeptides. Accordingly, in a sixth aspect, the present invention provides an antibody or an epitope binding fragment thereof, raised against either a Botl polypeptide or a polypeptide comprising a Botl epitope.

In a seventh aspect, the present invention provides a method for modulating the rate, level and/or pattern of boron efflux from a cell, the method comprising modulating the activity and/or expression of a Botl polypeptide in said cell. In one embodiment, the level and/or activity of the Botl polypeptide is modulated by modulating the expression of a Botl nucleic acid in the cell.

In an eighth aspect, the present invention provides a cell with a modulated rate, level and/or pattern of boron efflux.

In one embodiment, the cell of the eighth aspect of the invention is produced according to the method of the seventh aspect of the invention.

In a ninth aspect, the present invention also provides a multicellular structure wherein the multicellular structure comprises one or more cells of the eighth aspect of the invention.

In a tenth aspect, the present invention provides a method for ascertaining the boron sensitivity or tolerance of an organism, the method comprising determining the expression level of a Botl nucleic acid sequence and/or a Botl polypeptide in one or more cells of the organism, wherein a relatively high level of Botl nucleic acid sequence and/or a Botl polypeptide expression is associated with boron tolerance in the organism and a relatively low level of Botl nucleic acid sequence and/or Botl polypeptide expression is associated with boron sensitivity in the organism.

Throughout this specification, unless the context requires otherwise, the word "comprise", or variations such as "comprises" or "comprising", will be understood to imply the inclusion of a stated element or integer or group of elements or integers but not the exclusion of any other element or integer or group of elements or integers.

Nucleotide and amino acid sequences are referred to herein by a sequence identifier number (SEQ ID NO:). The SEQ ID NOs: correspond numerically to the sequence identifiers < 400 > 1 (SEQ ID NO :1), < 400 > 2 (SEQ ID NO : T), etc. A summary of the sequence identifiers is provided in Table 2. A sequence listing is provided at the end of the specification.

TABLE 2 - Summary of Sequence Identifiers

Sequence Identifier Sequence

DESCRIPTION OF EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS

It is to be understood that the following description is for the purpose of describing particular embodiments only and is not intended to be limiting with respect to the above description.

The present invention is predicated, in part, on the identification of polypeptides, and their corresponding nucleic acids, that encode boron transporter proteins.

In an exemplary embodiment of the invention, a polypeptide has been isolated from barley (Hordeum vulgar e) which encodes a boron transporter and which is associated with increased boron tolerance in at least the barley cultivar Sahara 3771. This polypeptide has been designated HvBotl, and comprises the amino acid sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 2. The open reading frame nucleic acid sequence which encodes the HvBotl polypeptide has also been determined. This nucleotide sequence is designated as HvBotl and comprises the nucleotide sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 1.

The present invention is also predicated, in part, on the discovery that the boron tolerant barley cultivar, Sahara 3771, expresses HvBotl at a higher level than boron sensitive barley cultivars. In addition, it has also been recognised that barley cv. Sahara 3771 has an increased copy number of HvBotl nucleic acid sequences in its genome in comparison with the boron sensitive barley cultivars.

Accordingly, in a first aspect, the present invention provides an isolated nucleic acid comprising a nucleotide sequence selected from the list consisting of: (i) a nucleotide sequence which encodes a polypeptide comprising the amino acid sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 2; (ii) a nucleotide sequence which encodes a functional homolog of the polypeptide comprising the amino acid sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 2; (iii) a nucleotide sequence which is the complement or reverse complement of the nucleotide sequence referred to at (i) or (ii); and (iv) a fragment of the nucleotide sequence referred to at any of (i), (ii) or (iii).

The nucleotide sequences of the first aspect of the invention are also referred to herein as "Botl nucleic acids" or "Botl nucleic acid sequences".

Generally, the Botl nucleic acids of the present invention encode boron-transporter polypeptides. As referred to herein, a "boron transporter" refers to any polypeptide which, alone or in conjunction with another molecule, is involved in the efflux, translocation or uptake of boron in a cell, tissue, organ, whole organism or part thereof. In one embodiment, the term "boron-transporter" refers to a polypeptide which is involved in the efflux of boron from a cell and, in some embodiments, a plant cell.

In some embodiments, the boron transporter polypeptides contemplated by the present invention include one or more transmembrane helices. In further embodiments of the invention, the boron transporter polypeptides comprise at least 2, at least 3, at least 4, at least 5, at least 6, at least 7, at least 8, at least 9 or at least 10 transmembrane helices. In one specific embodiment, the boron transporter contemplated by the present invention comprises 10, 11 or 12 transmembrane helices.

In the present invention, "isolated" refers to material removed from its original environment (e.g., the natural environment if it is naturally occurring), and thus is altered "by the hand of man" from its natural state. For example, an isolated nucleic acid could be part of a vector or a composition of matter, or could be contained within a cell, and still be "isolated" because that vector, composition of matter, or particular cell is not the original environment of the nucleic acid. An "isolated" nucleic acid molecule should also be understood to include a synthetic nucleic acid molecule, including those produced by chemical synthesis using known methods in the art or by in-vitro amplification (eg. polymerase chain reaction and the like).

The isolated nucleic acid molecules of the present invention may be composed of any polyribonucleotide or polydeoxribonucleotide, which may be unmodified RNA or DNA or modified RNA or DNA. For example, the isolated nucleic acid molecules can be composed of single- and double-stranded DNA, DNA that is a mixture of single- and double-stranded regions, single- and double-stranded RNA, and RNA that is a mixture of single- and double-stranded regions, hybrid molecules comprising DNA and RNA that may be single-stranded or, more typically, double-stranded or a mixture of single- and double-stranded regions. In addition, the isolated nucleic acid molecules can be composed of triple-stranded regions comprising RNA or DNA or both RNA and DNA. The isolated nucleic acid molecules may also contain one or more modified bases or DNA or RNA backbones modified for stability or for other reasons. "Modified" bases include, for example, tritylated bases and unusual bases such as inosine. A variety of modifications can be made to DNA and RNA; thus, "nucleic acid" embraces chemically, enzymatically, or metabolically modified forms.

As set out above, the present invention contemplates a nucleic acid that comprises a nucleotide sequence which encodes a polypeptide comprising the amino acid sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 2, or a nucleic acid that comprises a nucleotide sequence which encodes a functional homolog of a polypeptide comprising the amino acid sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 2.

In one embodiment a "functional homolog" of a polypeptide comprising the amino acid sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 2 includes any polypeptide, wherein the polypeptide is able to transport boron across a cell membrane. In another embodiment, the functional homolog is able to transport boron across a plant cell membrane. In a yet further embodiment, the functional homolog is able to effect boron efflux from a cell, including a plant cell.

Notwithstanding the above, the functional homolog may comprise, for example, a polypeptide which has one or more amino acid insertions, deletions or substitutions relative to the polypeptide comprising the amino acid sequence set forth in SEQ ID

NO: 2; a mutant form or allelic variant of the polypeptide comprising the amino acid sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 2; an ortholog of the polypeptide comprising the amino acid sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 2; an analog of the polypeptide comprising the amino acid sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 2; and the like.

In one embodiment, a "functional homolog" of a polypeptide comprising the amino acid sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 2 also comprises at least 84% amino acid sequence identity, at least 88% amino acid sequence identity, at least 92% amino acid sequence identity or at least 95%, 96%, 97%, 98%, 99% or 100% amino add sequence identity to SEQ ID NO: 2.

When comparing amino acid sequences, the compared sequences should be compared over a comparison window of at least 50 amino acid residues, at least 100 amino acid residues, at least 200 amino acid residues, at least 300 amino acid residues or over the full length of SEQ ID NO: 2. The comparison window may comprise additions or deletions (ie. gaps) of about 20% or less as compared to the reference sequence (which does not comprise additions or deletions) for optimal alignment of the two sequences. Optimal alignment of sequences for aligning a comparison window may be conducted by computerized implementations of algorithms such the BLAST family of programs as, for example, disclosed by Altschul et al. (Nucl. Acids Res. 25: 3389-3402, 1997). A detailed discussion of sequence analysis can be found in Unit 19. 3 of Ausubel et al. ("Current Protocols in Molecular Biology" John Wiley & Sons Inc, 1994-1998, Chapter 15, 1998). In one specific embodiment, the functional homolog of SEQ ID NO: 2 may be the Botl polypeptide from Hordeum vulgare cv. Clipper, which comprises the amino acid sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 26.

In another specific embodiment, the functional homolog of SEQ ID NO: 2 comprises a Botl polypeptide comprising: (i) a hydrophobic amino acid at amino acid residue number 305 of the Botl polypeptide; and/or

(ii) a polar amino add at amino acid residue number 592 of the Botl polypeptide.

In some embodiments, the hydrophobic amino acid is leucine and/or the polar amino acid is aspartic acid.

In specific embodiments, the isolated Botl nucleic acid comprises a nucleic acid selected from the list consisting of:

(i) a nucleic acid comprising the nucleotide sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 1;

(ii) a nucleic acid comprising a nucleotide sequence which is at least 81% identical to the nucleotide sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 1;

(iii) a nucleic acid which hybridizes to a nucleic acid comprising the nucleotide sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 1 under stringent conditions;

(iv) a nucleic acid comprising a nucleotide sequence which is the complement or reverse complement of any one of (i) to (iii); and

(v) a fragment of any of (i), (ii), (iii) or (iv).

As set out above, the nucleic acid referred to at (ii) comprises a nucleotide sequence having at least 81% nucleotide sequence identity to SEQ ID NO: 1. In other embodiments, the nucleic acid referred to at (ii) comprises at least 85% nucleotide sequence identity, at least 89% nucleotide sequence identity, at least 92% nucleotide sequence identity or at least 95%, 96%, 97%, 98%, 99% or 100% nucleotide sequence identity to SEQ ID NO: 1. When comparing nucleic acid sequences to SEQ ID NO: 1 to calculate a percentage identity, the compared nucleotide sequences should be compared over a comparison window of at least 100 nucleotide residues, at least 200 nucleotide residues, at least 500 nucleotide residues, at least 1000 nucleotide residues or the full length of SEQ ID NO: 1. The comparison window may comprise additions or deletions (ie. gaps) of about 20% or less as compared to the reference sequence (which does not comprise additions or deletions) for optimal alignment of the two sequences. Optimal alignment of sequences for aligning a comparison window may be conducted by computerized implementations of algorithms such the BLAST family of programs as, for example, disclosed by Altschul et al. (Nucl. Acids Res. 25: 3389-3402, 1997). A detailed discussion of sequence analysis can be found in Unit 19.3 of Ausubel et al. ("Current Protocols in Molecular Biology" John Wiley & Sons Inc, 1994-1998, Chapter 15, 1998).

As set out above, the invention also contemplates a nucleic acid which hybridises to a nucleic acid comprising the nucleotide sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 1 under stringent conditions. As used herein, "stringent" hybridisation conditions will be those in which the salt concentration is less than about 1.5 M Na ion, typically about 0.01 to 1.0 M Na ion concentration (or other salts) at pH 7.0 to 8.3 and the temperature is at least 300C. Stringent conditions may also be achieved with the addition of destabilizing agents such as formamide. Stringent hybridisation conditions may be low stringency conditions, medium stringency conditions or high stringency conditions. Exemplary low stringency conditions include hybridisation with a buffer solution of 30 to 35% formamide, 1 M NaCl, 1% SDS (sodium dodecyl sulphate) at 37°C, and a wash in Ix to 2xSSC (20xSSC=3.0 M NaCl/0.3 M trisodium citrate) at 50 to 55°C. Exemplary moderate stringency conditions include hybridisation in 40 to 45% formamide, 1.0 M NaCl, 1% SDS at 37°C, and a wash in 0.5x to IxSSC at 55 to 600C. Exemplary high stringency conditions include hybridisation in 50% formamide, 1 M NaCl, 1% SDS at 37°C, and a wash in 0. IxSSC at 60 to 65°C. Optionally, wash buffers may comprise about 0.1% to about 1% SDS. Duration of hybridization is generally less than about 24 hours, usually about 4 to about 12 hours.

Specificity of hybridisation is also affected by post-hybridization wash conditions, the critical factors being the ionic strength and temperature of the final wash solution. For DNA-DNA hybrids, the Tm can be approximated from the equation of Meinkoth and Wahl (Anal. Biochem. 138: 267-284, 1984), ie. Tm =81.5°C +16.6 (log M)+0.41 (% GQ-0.61 (% form)-500/L; where M is the molarity of monovalent cations, % GC is the percentage of guanosine and cytosine nucleotides in the DNA, % form is the percentage of formamide in the hybridization solution, and L is the length of the hybrid in base pairs. The Tm is the temperature (under defined ionic strength and pH) at which 50% of a complementary target sequence hybridizes to a perfectly matched probe. Tm is reduced by about 1°C for each 1% of mismatching; thus, Tm, hybridization, and/or wash conditions can be adjusted to hybridize to sequences of different degrees of complementarity. For example, sequences with >90% identity can be hybridised by decreasing the Tm by about 100C. Generally, stringent conditions are selected to be about 5°C lower than the thermal melting point (Tm) for the specific sequence and its complement at a defined ionic strength and pH. However, high stringency conditions can utilize a hybridization and/or wash at, for example, 1, 2, 3, or 4°C lower than the thermal melting point (Tm); medium stringency conditions can utilize a hybridization and/or wash at, for example, 6, 7, 8, 9, or 100C lower than the thermal melting point (Tm); low stringency conditions can utilize a hybridization and/or wash at, for example, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, or 200C lower than the thermal melting point (Tm). Using the equation, hybridization and wash compositions, and desired Tm, those of ordinary skill will understand that variations in the stringency of hybridization and/or wash solutions are inherently described. If the desired degree of mismatching results in a Tm of less than 45°C (aqueous solution) or 32°C (formamide solution), the SSC concentration may be increased so that a higher temperature can be used. An extensive guide to the hybridization of nucleic acids is found in Tijssen (Laboratory Techniques in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology-Hybridization with Nucleic Acid Probes, Pt I, Chapter 2, Elsevier, New York, 1993), Ausubel et al., eds. (Current Protocols in Molecular Biology, Chapter 2, Greene Publishing and Wiley-Interscience, New York, 1995) and Sambrook et al. (Molecular Cloning: A Laboratory Manual, 2nd ed., Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, Plainview, NY, 1989).

The Botl nucleic acids of the present invention may be derived from any source. For example, the Botl nucleic acids may be derived from an organism, such as a plant. Suitable plants include, for example, monocotyledonous angiosperms (monocots), dicotyledonous angiosperms (dicots), gymnosperms and the like.

In one embodiment, the Botl nucleic acid is derived from a monocot. In another embodiment the Botl nucleic acid is derived from a cereal crop plant. As used herein, the term "cereal crop plant" includes members of the Poaceae (grass family) that produce edible grain for human or animal food. Examples of Poaceae cereal crop plants which in no way limit the present invention include barley, wheat, rice, maize, millets, sorghum, rye, triticale, oats, teff, wild rice, spelt and the like. However, the term cereal crop plant should also be understood to include a number of non- Poaceae species that also produce edible grain and are known as the pseudocereals, such as amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa.

In one specific embodiment, the Botl nucleic acid is derived from a barley plant. In another embodiment, the Botl nucleic acid includes an HvBotl nucleic acid as described herein.

In further embodiments, Botl nucleic acids may also be derived from dicots. Exemplary dicots include, for example, Arabidopsis spp., Nicotiana spp., Medicago spp., soyabean, canola, oil seed rape, sugar beet, mustard, sunflower, potato, safflower, cassava, yams, sweet potato, other Brassicaceae such as Thellungiella halophila, among others. In yet further embodiments, the Botl nucleic acids of the present invention may be derived from a boron tolerant plant species or cultivar.

Alternatively, the Botl nucleic acid may be a synthetic nucleic acid.

Specific examples of additional Botl nucleic acids contemplated by the present invention include Botl nucleic acid orthologs of SEQ ID NO: 1, such as nucleic acids comprising the nucleotide sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 25. SEQ ID NO: 25 is derived from Hordeum vulgare cultivar Clipper. However, as would be appreciated by those of skill in the art, further orthologs may be derived from other cultivars of Hordeum vulgare, other species within the genus Hordeum, other plants in the Poaceae family or Poales order, other monocot plants, other dicot plants, other members of the plant kingdom or other non-plant eukaryotic or prokaryotic organisms.

The Botl nucleic acids contemplated by the present invention may also comprise one or more non-translated regions such as 3' and 5' untranslated regions and/or introns. For example, the Botl nucleic acids contemplated by the present invention may comprise, for example, mRNA sequences, cDNA sequences or genomic nucleotide sequences. For example, exemplary nucleotide sequences which comprise a Botl nucleic acid include the genomic nucleotide sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 3 or the mRNA sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 4.

As set out above, the present invention also contemplates fragments of the isolated Botl nucleic acids of the first aspect of the invention.

"Fragments" of a nucleotide sequence may be at least 10 nucleotides (nt), at least 20 nt, at least 50 nt, or at least 100, 150, 200, 250, 300, 350, 400, 450, 500, 550, or 600 nt in length. These fragments have numerous uses that would be evident to one of skill in the art and include, but are not limited to, diagnostic probes and primers. Of course, larger fragments may also be useful, as are fragments corresponding to most, if not all, of the nucleotide sequences SEQ ID NO: 1. By a fragment at least 10 nt in length, for example, is intended fragments which include 10 or more contiguous bases from, for example, the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO: 1.

The nucleic acid of the first aspect of the invention may also comprise a plurality of Botl nucleic acid sequences. For example, in some embodiments of the invention, the nucleic acid of the first aspect of the invention may include multiple copies of a boron- transporter encoding nucleic acid. Accordingly, in some embodiments, the nucleic acid of the first aspect of the invention may include at least 1, at least 2, at least 3, at least 4, at least 5, at least 6, at least 7, at least 8, at least 9, or at least 10 copies of a Botl nucleic acid sequence.

In further embodiments, a nucleic acid encoding multiple copies of a Botl nucleic acid sequence may include an isolated genomic nucleotide sequence defining a cluster of Botl nucleic acids. Such nucleic acids may be derived from, for example, alleles from boron tolerant plants that include multiple copies of a Botl nucleic acid. In one specific embodiment, the nucleic acid of the first aspect of the invention may include an isolated genomic nucleotide sequence defining a cluster of Botl nucleic acids from Hordeum vulgar e cv. Sahara 3771.

In a second aspect, the present invention provides a nucleic acid construct or vector comprising the nucleic acid of the first aspect of the invention.

The vector or construct of the invention may further comprise one or more of: an origin of replication for one or more hosts; a selectable marker gene which is active in one or more hosts; and/or one or more transcriptional control sequences.

As used herein, the term "selectable marker gene" includes any gene that confers a phenotype on a cell in which it is expressed, to facilitate the identification and/or selection of cells which are transfected or transformed with a genetic construct of the invention.

"Selectable marker genes" include any nucleotide sequences which, when expressed by a cell, confer a phenotype on the cell that facilitates the identification and/or selection of these transformed cells. A range of nucleotide sequences encoding suitable selectable markers are known in the art. Exemplary nucleotide sequences that encode selectable markers include: antibiotic resistance genes such as ampicillin-resistance genes, tetracycline-resistance genes, kanamycin-resistance genes, the AURI-C gene which confers resistance to the antibiotic aureobasidin A, neomycin phosphotransferase genes (eg. nptl and nγtlϊ) and hygromycin phosphotransferase genes (eg. kpt); herbicide resistance genes including glufosinate, phosphinothridn or bialaphos resistance genes such as phosphinothridn acetyl transferase encoding genes (eg. bar), glyphosate resistance genes including 3-enoyl pyruvyl shikimate 5-phosphate synthase encoding genes (eg. aroA), bromyxnil resistance genes including bromyxnil nitrilase encoding genes, sulfonamide resistance genes including dihydropterate synthase encoding genes (eg. suϊ) and sulfonylurea resistance genes including acetolactate synthase encoding genes; enzyme-encoding reporter genes such as GUS and chloramphenicolacetyltransferase (CAT) encoding genes; fluorescent reporter genes such as the green fluorescent protein-encoding gene; and luminescence-based reporter genes such as the luciferase gene, amongst others.

Furthermore, it should be noted that the selectable marker gene may be a distinct open reading frame in the construct or may be expressed as a fusion protein with another polypeptide (eg. a Botl polypeptide).

As set out above, the nucleic acid construct or vector may also comprise one or more transcriptional control sequences. The term "transcriptional control sequence" should be understood to include any nucleic acid sequence which effects the transcription of an operably connected nucleic acid. A transcriptional control sequence may include, for example, a leader, polyadenylation sequence, promoter, enhancer or upstream activating sequence, and transcription terminator. Typically, a transcriptional control sequence at least includes a promoter. The term "promoter" as used herein, describes any nucleic acid which confers, activates or enhances expression of a nucleic acid molecule in a cell.

In one embodiment, at least one transcriptional control sequence is operably connected to the nucleic acid sequence of the first aspect of the invention. For the purposes of the present specification, a transcriptional control sequence is regarded as "operably connected" to a given gene or other nucleotide sequence when the transcriptional control sequence is able to promote, inhibit or otherwise modulate the transcription of the gene or other nucleotide sequence.

A promoter may regulate the expression of an operably connected nucleotide sequence constitutively, or differentially, with respect to the cell, tissue, organ or developmental stage at which expression occurs, in response to external stimuli such as physiological stresses, pathogens, or metal ions, amongst others, or in response to one or more transcriptional activators. As such, the promoter used in accordance with the methods of the present invention may include, for example, a constitutive promoter, an inducible promoter, a tissue-specific promoter or an activatable promoter.

The present invention contemplates the use of any promoter which is active in a cell of interest. As such, a wide array of promoters which are active in any of bacteria, fungi, animal cells or plant cells would be readily ascertained by one of ordinary skill in the art. However, in some embodiments of the invention, plant cells are used. Therefore, in these embodiments, plant-active constitutive, inducible, tissue-specific or activatable promoters may be used.

In one specific embodiment, the present invention contemplates the use of a native Botl promoter to drive the expression of a Botl nucleic acid. Plant constitutive promoters typically direct expression in nearly all tissues of a plant and are largely independent of environmental and developmental factors. Examples of constitutive promoters that may be used in accordance with the present invention include plant viral derived promoters such as the Cauliflower Mosaic Virus 35S and

19S (CaMV 35S and CaMV 19S) promoters; bacterial plant pathogen derived promoters such as opine promoters derived from Agrobacterium spp., eg. the Agrobacterium- derived nopaline synthase (nos) promoter; and plant-derived promoters such as the rubisco small subunit gene (rbcS) promoter, the plant ubiquitin promoter (Pubi) and the rice actin promoter (Pact).

"Inducible" promoters include, but are not limited to, chemically inducible promoters and physically inducible promoters. Chemically inducible promoters include promoters which have activity that is regulated by chemical compounds such as alcohols, antibiotics, steroids, metal ions or other compounds. Examples of chemically inducible promoters include: alcohol regulated promoters (eg. see European Patent 637 339); tetracycline regulated promoters (eg. see US Patent 5,851,796 and US Patent 5,464,758); steroid responsive promoters such as glucocorticoid receptor promoters (eg. see US Patent 5,512,483), estrogen receptor promoters (eg. see European Patent Application 1 232 273), ecdysone receptor promoters (eg. see US Patent 6,379,945) and the like; metal-responsive promoters such as metallothionein promoters (eg. see US Patent 4,940,661, US Patent 4,579,821 and US 4,601,978); and pathogenesis related promoters such as chitinase or lysozyme promoters (eg. see US Patent 5,654,414) or PR protein promoters (eg. see US Patent 5,689,044, US Patent 5,789,214, Australian Patent 708850, US Patent 6,429,362).

In another embodiment, the inducible promoter may be a boron-responsive promoter.

As referred to herein, the term "boron-responsive" should be understood to mean that the level and/or rate of transcription effected by the transcriptional control sequence is modulatable in response to boron concentration and/or the concentration of a boron- containing compound. In one embodiment, the boron responsive transcriptional control sequence is boron-inducible, that is the level and/or rate of transcription effected by the transcriptional control sequence increases in response to increasing boron concentration.

The inducible promoter may also be a physically regulated promoter which is regulated by non-chemical environmental factors such as temperature (both heat and cold), light and the like. Examples of physically regulated promoters include heat shock promoters (eg. see US Patent 5,447858, Australian Patent 732872, Canadian Patent Application 1324097); cold inducible promoters (eg. see US Patent 6,479,260, US Patent 6,184,443 and US Patent 5,847,102); light inducible promoters (eg. see US Patent 5,750,385 and Canadian Patent 132 1563); light repressible promoters (eg. see New Zealand Patent 508103 and US Patent 5,639,952).

"Tissue specific promoters" include promoters which are preferentially or specifically expressed in one or more specific cells, tissues or organs in an organism and/or one or more developmental stages of the organism. It should be understood that a tissue specific promoter may be either constitutive or inducible.

Examples of plant tissue specific promoters include: root specific promoters such as those described in US Patent Application 2001047525; fruit specific promoters including ovary specific and receptacle tissue specific promoters such as those described in European Patent 316 441, US Patent 5,753,475 and European Patent Application 973 922; and seed specific promoters such as those described in Australian Patent 612326 and European Patent application 0 781 849 and Australian Patent 746032.

The promoter may also be a promoter that is acti vat able by one or more transcriptional activators, referred to herein as an "activatable promoter". For example, the activatable promoter may comprise a minimal promoter operably connected to an Upstream Activating Sequence (UAS), which comprises, inter alia, a DNA binding site for one or more transcriptional activators.

As referred to herein the term "minimal promoter" should be understood to include any promoter that incorporates at least an RNA polymerase binding site and, optionally a TATA box and transcription initiation site and/or one or more CAAT boxes. In one embodiment wherein the cell is a plant cell, the minimal promoter may be derived from the Cauliflower Mosaic Virus 35S (CaMV 35S) promoter. The CaMV 35S derived minimal promoter may comprise, for example, a sequence that substantially corresponds to positions -90 to +1 (the transcription initiation site) of the CaMV 35S promoter (also referred to as a -90 CaMV 35S minimal promoter), -60 to +1 of the CaMV 35S promoter (also referred to as a -60 CaMV 35S minimal promoter) or - 45 to +1 of the CaMV 35S promoter (also referred to as a -45 CaMV 35S minimal promoter).

As set out above, the activatable promoter may comprise a minimal promoter fused to an Upstream Activating Sequence (UAS). The UAS may be any sequence that can bind a transcriptional activator to activate the minimal promoter. Exemplary transcriptional activators include, for example: yeast derived transcription activators such as Gal4, Pdrl, Gcn4 and Acel; the viral derived transcription activator, VP16; Hapl (Hach et al, / Biol Chem 278: 248-254, 2000); Gafl (Hoe et al, Gene 215(2): 319-328, 1998); E2F (Albani et al, J Biol Chem 275: 19258-19267, 2000); HAND2 (Dai and Cserjesi, / Biol Chem 277: 12604-12612, 2002); NRF-I and EWG (Herzig et al, J Cell Sci 113: 4263-4273, 2000); P/CAF (Itoh et al, Nucl Acids Res 28: 4291 - 4298, 2000); Maf A (Kataoka et al, J Biol Chem 277: 49903-49910, 2002); human activating transcription factor 4 (Liang and Hai, / Biol Chem 272: 24088 - 24095, 1997); BcIlO (Liu et al, Biochem Biopkys Res Comm 320(1): 1-6, 2004); CREB-H (Omori et al, Nucl Acids Res 29: 2154 - 2162, 2001); ARRl and ARR2 (Sakai et al, Plant J 24(6): 703-711, 2000); Fos (Szuts and Bienz, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 97: 5351-5356, 2000); HSF4 (Tanabe et al, J Biol Chem 274: 27845 - 27856, 1999); MAMLl (Wu et al, Nat Genet 26: 484-489, 2000). In one embodiment, the UAS comprises a nucleotide sequence that is able to bind to at least the DNA-binding domain of the GAL4 transcriptional activator. UAS sequences, which can bind transcriptional activators that comprise at least the GAL4 DNA binding domain, are referred to herein as UASG. In another embodiment, the UASG comprises the sequence 5'-CGGAGTACTGTCCTCCGAG-S' or a functional homolog thereof.

As referred to herein, a "functional homolog" of the UASG sequence should be understood to refer to any nucleotide sequence which can bind at least the GAL4 DNA binding domain and which may comprise a nucleotide sequence having at least 50% identity, at least 65% identity, at least 80% identity or at least 90% identity with the UASG nucleotide sequence.

The UAS sequence in the activatable promoter may comprise a plurality of tandem repeats of a DNA binding domain target sequence. For example, in its native state, UASG comprises four tandem repeats of the DNA binding domain target sequence. As such, the term "plurality" as used herein with regard to the number of tandem repeats of a DNA binding domain target sequence should be understood to include, for example, at least 2 tandem repeats, at least 3 tandem repeats or at least 4 tandem repeats.

As mentioned above, the control sequences may also include a terminator. The term "terminator" refers to a DNA sequence at the end of a transcriptional unit which signals termination of transcription. Terminators are 3'-non-translated DNA sequences generally containing a polyadenylation signal, which facilitate the addition of polyadenylate sequences to the 3'-end of a primary transcript. As with promoter sequences, the terminator may be any terminator sequence which is operable in the cells, tissues or organs in which it is intended to be used. Examples of suitable terminator sequences which may be useful in plant cells include: the nopaline synthase (nos) terminator, the CaMV 35S terminator, the octopine synthase (ocs) terminator, potato proteinase inhibitor gene (pin) terminators, such as the pinll and pinIII terminators and the like.

The present invention extends to all genetic constructs essentially as described herein. These constructs may further include nucleotide sequences intended for the maintenance and/or replication of the genetic construct in prokaryotes or eukaryotes and/or the integration of the genetic construct or a part thereof into the genome of a eukaryotic or prokaryotic cell.

In one embodiment, the vector or construct is adapted to be at least partially transferred into a plant cell via Agrobacterium-mediated transformation. Accordingly, in another embodiment, the construct may comprise left and/or right T-DNA border sequences.

Suitable T-DNA border sequences would be readily ascertained by one of skill in the art. However, the term "T-DNA border sequences" should be understood to include, for example, any substantially homologous and substantially directly repeated nucleotide sequences that delimit a nucleic acid molecule that is transferred from an Agrobαcterium sp. cell into a plant cell susceptible to Agrobacterium-mediated transformation. By way of example, reference is made to the paper of Peralta and Ream (Proc. Nαtl. Acαd. ScL USA, 82(15): 5112-5116, 1985) and the review of Gelvin (Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews, 67(1): 16-37, 2003).

In one embodiment, the vector or construct is adapted to be transferred into a plant via Agrobacterium-mediated transformation, however, the present invention also contemplates any suitable modifications to the genetic construct that facilitate bacterial mediated insertion into a plant cell via bacteria other than Agrobacterium sp., for example as described in Broothaerts et al. (Nature 433: 629-633, 2005).

Those skilled in the art will be aware of how to produce the constructs described herein and of the requirements for obtaining the expression thereof, when so desired, in a specific cell or cell-type under the conditions desired. In particular, it will be known to those skilled in the art that the genetic manipulations required to perform the present invention may require the propagation of a genetic construct described herein or a derivative thereof in a prokaryotic cell such as an E. coli cell or a plant cell or an animal cell. Exemplary methods for cloning nucleic acid molecules are described in Sambrook et al. (2000, supra)

In a third aspect, the present invention provides a genetically modified cell comprising an introduced nucleic acid selected from the list consisting of:

(i) an isolated nucleic acid of the first aspect of the invention; and

(ii) a nucleic acid construct or vector of the second aspect of the invention.

As referred to herein, a "genetically modified cell" comprises a cell that is genetically modified with respect to the wild type of the cell. As such, a genetically modified cell may be a cell which has itself been genetically modified and/or the progeny of such a cell.

The nucleic acid may be introduced using any method known in the art which is suitable for the cell type being used, for example, those described in Sambrook and Russell (Molecular Cloning - A Laboratory Manual, 3rd Ed., Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 2000).

In embodiments of the invention where the cell is a plant cell, suitable methods for introduction of a nucleic acid molecule may include, for example: Agrobacterium- mediated transformation, other bacterially-mediated transformation (see Broothaerts et al., 2005, supra) microprojectile bombardment based transformation methods and direct

DNA uptake based methods. Roa-Rodriguez et al. (Agrobacterium-medzαted transformation of plants, 3rd Ed. CAMBIA Intellectual Property Resource, Canberra, Australia, 2003) review a wide array of suitable Agrobacterium-mediated plant transformation methods for a wide range of plant species. Microprojectile bombardment may also be used to transform plant tissue and methods for the transformation of plants, particularly cereal plants, and such methods are reviewed by Casas et al. (Plant Breeding Rev. 13: 235-264, 1995). Direct DNA uptake transformation protocols such as protoplast transformation and electroporation are described in detail in Galbraith et al. (eds.), Methods in Cell Biology Vol. 50, Academic Press, San Diego, 1995). In addition to the methods mentioned above, a range of other transformation protocols may also be used. These include infiltration, electroporation of cells and tissues, electroporation of embryos, microinjection, pollen-tube pathway, silicon carbide- and liposome mediated transformation. Methods such as these are reviewed by Rakoczy-Trojanowska (Cell. MoI. Biol. Lett. 7: 849-858, 2002). A range of other plant transformation methods may also be evident to those of skill in the art.

The introduced nucleic acid may be single stranded or double stranded. The nucleic acid may be transcribed into mRNA and translated into a protein; may encode a non- translated RNA such as an RNAi construct, a cosuppression construct, antisense RNA, tRNA, miRNA, siRNA, ntRNA and the like; or may act directly in the cell. The introduced nucleic acid may be an unmodified DNA or RNA or a modified DNA or RNA which may include modifications to the nucleotide bases, sugar or phosphate backbones but which retain functional equivalency to a nucleic acid. The introduced nucleic acid may optionally be replicated in the cell; integrated into a chromosome or any extrachromosomal elements of the cell; and/or transcribed by the cell. Also, the introduced nucleic acid may be either homologous or heterologous with respect to the host cell. That is, the introduced nucleic acid may be derived from a cell of the same species as the genetically modified cell (ie. homologous) or the introduced nucleic may be derived from a different species (ie. heterologous). The transgene may also be a synthetic transgene.

The introduced nucleic acid referred to above may be maintained in the cell as a DNA molecule, as part of an episome (eg. a plasmid, cosmid, artificial chromosome or the like) or it may be integrated into the genomic DNA of a cell.

As used herein, the term "genomic DNA" should be understood in its broadest context to include any and all DNA that makes up the genetic complement of a cell. As such, the genomic DNA of a cell should be understood to include chromosomes, mitochondrial DNA, plastid DNA, chloroplast DNA, endogenous plasmid DNA and the like. As such, the term "genomically integrated" contemplates chromosomal integration, mitochondrial DNA integration, plastid DNA integration, chloroplast DNA integration, endogenous plasmid integration, and the like.

The isolated nucleic acid molecule may be operably connected to a promoter such that a cell may express a Botl nucleic acid sequence.

The term "cell", as used herein, should be understood to include any cell type, including bacteria, archaea and eukaryotic cells including, for example, animal, plant and fungal cells. The cell may include, for example, a plant cell, a monocot plant cell, a cereal crop plant cell or a barley cell.

Furthermore, in a fourth aspect, the present invention provides a multicellular structure comprising one or more cells of the third aspect of the invention.

As referred to herein, a "multicellular structure" includes any aggregation of one or more cells. As such, a multicellular structure specifically encompasses tissues, organs, whole organisms and parts thereof. Furthermore, a multicellular structure should also be understood to encompass multicellular aggregations of cultured cells such as colonies, plant calli, suspension cultures and the like.

As mentioned above, in one embodiment of the invention, the cell is a plant cell and as such, the present invention includes a whole plant, plant tissue, plant organ, plant part, plant reproductive material or cultured plant tissue (eg. callus or suspension culture), comprising one or more plant cells according to the third aspect of the invention. In further embodiments, the cell is a monocot cell, a cereal crop cell or a barley cell and, thus, the present invention also specifically includes a whole plant, plant tissue, plant organ, plant part, plant reproductive material or cultured plant tissue (eg. callus or suspension culture), comprising one or more monocot, cereal crop plant or barley cells.

In a fifth aspect, the present invention provides an isolated polypeptide selected from the list consisting of:

(i) a polypeptide comprising the amino acid sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 2; (ii) a polypeptide which is a functional homolog of (i), as hereinbefore defined; and (iii) a fragment of (i) or (ii).

The polypeptides of the invention are also referred to herein as Botl polypeptides. Generally, the Botl polypeptides of the present invention comprise boron transporter polypeptides, as hereinbefore defined.

As used herein, the term "polypeptide" should be understood to include any length polymer of amino acids. As such the term "polypeptide" should be understood to encompass, for example, peptides, polypeptides and proteins.

The Botl polypeptides of the present invention may be derived from any source. For example, the Botl polypeptides may be derived from an organism, such as a plant. Suitable plants include, for example, monocotyledonous angiosperms (monocots), dicotyledonous angiosperms (dicots), gymnosperms and the like.

In one embodiment, the Botl polypeptide is derived from a monocot. In another embodiment the Botl polypeptide is derived from a cereal crop plant. In one specific embodiment, the Botl polypeptide is derived from a barley plant. In another embodiment, the Botl polypeptide includes an HvBotl polypeptide as described herein. In further embodiments, Botl polypeptide may also be derived from dicots. Exemplary dicots include, for example, Arabidσpsis spp., Nicotiana spp., Medicago spp., soyabean, canola, oil seed rape, sugar beet, mustard, sunflower, potato, safflower, cassava, yams, sweet potato, other Brassicaceae such as Thellungiella halophila, among others.

In yet further embodiments, the Botl polypeptide of the present invention may be derived from a boron tolerant plant species or cultivar.

The Botl polypeptide may also be produced in a recombinant expression system. For example, a Botl polypeptide may be recombinantly produced by introducing a Botl nucleic acid under the control of a promoter, into a cell, wherein the cell subsequently expresses the Botl nucleic acid and produced a Botl polypeptide.

A vast array of recombinant expression systems that may be used to express a Botl nucleic acid are known in the art. Exemplary recombinant expression systems include: bacterial expression systems such as E. coll expression systems (reviewed in Baneyx, Curr. Oγin. Biotechnol. 10: 411-421, 1999; eg. see also Gene expression in recombinant microorganisms, Smith (Ed.), Marcel Dekker, Inc. New York, 1994; and Protein Expression Technologies: Current Status and Future Trends, Baneyx (Ed.), Chapters 2 and 3, Horizon Bioscience, Norwich, UK, 2004), Bacillus spp. expression systems (eg. see Protein Expression Technologies: Current Status and Future Trends, supra, chapter 4) and Streptomyces spp. expression systems (eg. see Practical Streptomyces Genetics, Kieser et al., (Eds.), Chapter 17, John Innes Foundation, Norwich, UK, 2000); fungal expression systems including yeast expression systems such as Saccharomyces spp., Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Hansenula polymorpha and Pichia spp. expression systems and filamentous fungi expression systems (eg. see Protein Expression Technologies: Current Status and Future Trends, supra, chapters 5, 6 and 7; Buckholz and Gleeson, Bio/Technology 9(11): 1067-1072, 1991; Cregg et al., MoI. Biotechnol. 16(1): 23-52, 2000; Cereghino and Cregg, FEMS Microbiology Reviews 24: 45-66, 2000; Cregg et al., Bio/Technology 11: 905 - 910, 1993); mammalian cell expression systems including Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) cell based expression systems (eg. see Protein Expression Technologies: Current Status and Future Trends, supra, chapter 9); insect cell cultures including baculovirus expression systems (eg. see Protein Expression Technologies: Current Status and Future Trends, supra, chapter 8; Kost and Condreay, Curr. Opin. Biotechnol. 10: 428-433, 1999; Baculovirus Expression Vectors: A Laboratory Manual WH Freeman & Co., New York, 1992; and The Baculovirus Expression System: A Laboratory Manual, Chapman & Hall, London, 1992); Plant cell expression systems such as tobacco, soybean, rice and tomato cell expression systems (eg. see review of Hellwig et ah, Nat Biotechnol 22: 1415-1422, 2004); and the like.

Alternatively, the Botl polypeptide may be a synthetic nucleic acid.

The Botl polypeptides of the present invention may be composed of amino acids joined to each other by peptide bonds or modified peptide bonds, ie., peptide isosteres, and may contain amino acids other than the 20 gene-encoded amino acids. The isolated polypeptides of the present invention may be modified by either natural processes, such as post-translational processing, or by chemical modification techniques which as are known in the art.

Modifications can occur anywhere in the polypeptide, including the peptide backbone, the amino acid side-chains and/or the termini. It will be appreciated that the same type of modification may be present in the same or varying degrees at several sites in a given isolated polypeptide. Also, an isolated polypeptide of the present invention may contain more than one type of modification.

The polypeptides of the invention may be branched, for example, as a result of ubiquitination, and/or they may be cyclic, with or without branching. Cyclic, branched, and branched cyclic polypeptides may result from post-translation natural processes or may be made by synthetic methods. Exemplary polypeptide modifications include acetylation, acylation, ADP-ribosylation, amidation, covalent attachment of flavin, covalent attachment of a heme moiety, covalent attachment of a nucleotide or nucleotide derivative, covalent attachment of a lipid or lipid derivative, covalent attachment of phosphatidylinositol, cross-linking, cyclization, disulfide bond formation, demethylation, formation of covalent cross-links, formation of cysteine, formation of pyroglutamate, formylation, gamma-carboxylation, glycosylation, GPI anchor formation, hydroxylation, iodination, methylation, myristoylation, oxidation, PEGylation, proteolytic processing, phosphorylation, prenylation, racemization, selenoylation, sulfation, transfer-RNA mediated addition of amino acids to proteins such as arginylation, and ubiquitination. (See, for instance, Proteins— Structure And Molecular Properties 2nd Ed., Creighton (ed.), W. H. Freeman and Company, New York, 1993); Posttranslational Covalent Modification Of Proteins, Johnson (Ed.), Academic Press, New York, 1983; Seifter et al., Meth Enzymol 182: 626-646, 1990); Rattan et ah, Ann NY Acad Sci 663: 48-62,1992.).

The "functional homologs" contemplated by the fifth aspect of the invention may comprise a functional homolog of SEQ ID NO: 2 as hereinbefore described.

As set out above, the present invention also provides polypeptide fragments. Polypeptide fragments may be "free-standing" or comprised within a larger polypeptide of which the fragment forms a part or region.

The polypeptide fragments may be at least 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 110, 120, 130, 140, 150, 200, 250 or 300 amino acids in length. In one embodiment, the fragment comprises an amino acid sequence which is a fragment of the sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 2.

In another embodiment, the fragment comprises the functional activity of a boron transporter. However, even if the fragment does not retain one or more biological functions of a boron transporter polypeptide, other functional activities may still be retained. For example, fragments may retain the ability to induce the production of, and/or bind to, antibodies which recognize a complete or mature form of a Botl polypeptide. A peptide, polypeptide or protein fragment which has the ability to induce and/or bind to antibodies which recognize the complete or mature forms of an isolated Botl polypeptide is referred to herein as a "Botl epitope".

A Botl epitope may comprise as few as three or four amino acid residues, but may also include, for example, at least 5 amino acid residues, at least 10 amino acid residues, at least 20 amino acid residues, at least 50 amino acid residues or at least 100 amino acid residues. Whether a particular Botl polypeptide fragment retains such immunologic activities can readily be determined by methods known in the art. As such, in some embodiments, a Botl polypeptide fragment may be, for example, a polypeptide comprising one or more Botl epitopes.

A polypeptide comprising one or more Botl epitopes may be produced by any conventional means for making polypeptides including, for example, synthetic and recombinant methods known in the art. In one embodiment, Botl epitope containing polypeptide may be synthesized using known methods of chemical synthesis. For instance, Houghten has described a method for the synthesis of large numbers of peptides (Houghten, Proc. Natl. Acad. ScL USA 82: 5131-5135, 1985).

The isolated polypeptides and fragments thereof of the present invention may also be useful, for example, in the generation of antibodies that bind to Botl polypeptides.

Such antibodies are useful, for example, in the detection and localization of Botl polypeptides and in affinity purification of Botl polypeptides. The antibodies may also routinely be used in a variety of qualitative or quantitative immunoassays using methods known in the art. For example see Harlow et ah, Antibodies: A Laboratory Manual, (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press 2nd Ed., 1988). Accordingly, in a sixth aspect, the present invention provides an antibody or an epitope binding fragment thereof, raised against either a Botl polypeptide or a polypeptide comprising a Botl epitope.

The antibodies of the present invention include, but are not limited to, polyclonal, monoclonal, multispecific, chimeric antibodies, single chain antibodies, Fab fragments, F(ab') fragments, fragments produced by a Fab expression library and epitope-binding fragments of any of the above.

The term "antibody", as used herein, refers to immunoglobulin molecules and immunologically active portions of immunoglobulin molecules, i.e., molecules that contain an antigen-binding site that immunospecifically binds an antigen. The immunoglobulin molecules of the invention can be of any type (e.g., IgG, IgE, IgM, IgD, IgA and IgY), class (e.g., IgGl, IgG2, IgG3, IgG4, IgAl and IgA2) or subclass of immunoglobulin molecule.

The antibodies of the present invention may be monospecific, bispecific, trispecific, or of greater multispecificity. Multispecific antibodies may be specific for different epitopes of a polypeptide of the present invention or may be specific for both a polypeptide of the present invention as well as for a heterologous epitope, such as a heterologous polypeptide or solid support material. For example, see PCT publications WO 93/17715; WO 92/08802; WO 91/00360; WO 92/05793; Tutt et ah, J. Immunol. U7: 60- 69, 1991; US Patents 4,474,893; 4,714,681; 4,925,648; 5,573,920; 5,601,819; and Kostelny et al. J. Immunol. 148: 1547-1553, 1992).

In one embodiment, the antibodies of the present invention may act as agonists or antagonists of a Botl polypeptide. In further embodiments, the antibodies of the present invention may be used, for example, to purify, detect, and target the polypeptides of the present invention, including both in vitro and in vivo diagnostic and therapeutic methods. For example, the antibodies have use in immunoassays for qualitatively and quantitatively measuring levels of Botl polypeptide in biological samples. See, e.g., Harlow et ah, Antibodies: A Laboratory Manual (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 2nd ed. 1988).

The term "antibody", as used herein, should also be understood to encompass derivatives that are modified, eg. by the covalent attachment of any type of molecule to the antibody such that covalent attachment does not prevent the antibody from binding to a Botl polypeptide or an epitope thereof. For example, the antibody derivatives include antibodies that have been modified, eg., by glycosylation, acetylation, pegylation, phosphorylation, amidation, derivatization by known protecting/blocking groups, proteolytic cleavage, linkage to a cellular ligand or other protein, etc. Furthermore, any of numerous chemical modifications may also be made using known techniques. These include specific chemical cleavage, acetylation, formylation, etc. Additionally, the derivative may contain one or more non-classical amino acids.

Antibodies may be generated using methods known in the art, such as in vivo immunization, in vitro immunization, and phage display methods. For example, see Bittle et al. (J. Gen. Virol. 66: 2347-2354, 1985).

If in vivo immunization is used, animals may be immunized with free peptide; however, anti-peptide antibody titer may be boosted by coupling of the peptide to a macromolecular carrier, such as keyhole limpet hemacyanin (KLH) or tetanus toxoid. For example, peptides containing cysteine residues may be coupled to a carrier using a linker such as maleimidobenzoyl-N-hydroxysuccinimide ester (MBS), while other peptides may be coupled to carriers using a more general linking agent such as glutar aldehyde.

For example, polyclonal antibodies to a Botl polypeptide or a polypeptide comprising one or more Botl epitopes can be produced using methods known in the art. For example, animals such as rabbits, rats or mice may be immunized with either free or carrier-coupled peptides. For instance, intraperitoneal and/or intradermal injection of emulsions containing about 100 micrograms of peptide or carrier protein may be used to induce the production of sera containing polyclonal antibodies specific for the antigen. Various adjuvants may also be used to increase the immunological response, depending on the host species, for example, Freund's (complete and incomplete), mineral gels such as aluminum hydroxide, surface active substances such as lysolecithin, pluronic polyols, polyanions, peptides, oil emulsions, keyhole limpet hemocyanins, dinitrophenol, and potentially useful human adjuvants such as BCG (bacille Calmette-Guerin) and Corynebacterium γarvum. Such adjuvants are also well known in the art. Several booster injections may be needed, for example, at intervals of about two weeks, to provide a useful titer of anti-peptide antibody which can be detected, for example, by ELISA assay using free peptide adsorbed to a solid surface. The titer of anti-peptide antibodies in serum from an immunized animal may be increased by selection of anti-peptide antibodies, for instance, by adsorption to the peptide on a solid support and elution of the selected antibodies according to methods known in the art.

As another example, monoclonal antibodies can be prepared using a wide variety of techniques known in the art including the use of hybridoma, recombinant, and phage display technologies, or a combination thereof. For example, monoclonal antibodies can be produced using hybridoma techniques including those known in the art and taught, for example, in Harlow et al., Antibodies: A Laboratory Manual, (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 2nd ed., 1988) and Hammerling et al., in: Monoclonal Antibodies and T-CeIl Hybridomas (Elsevier, NY, 1981). The term "monoclonal antibody" as used herein is not limited to antibodies produced through hybridoma technology. The term "monoclonal antibody" refers to an antibody that is derived from a single clone, including any eukaryotic, prokaryotic, or phage clone, and not the method by which it is produced. Methods for producing and screening for specific antibodies using hybridoma technology are known in the art. For example, mice can be immunized with a polypeptide of the invention or a cell expressing such peptide. Once an immune response is detected, eg., antibodies specific for the antigen are detected in the mouse serum, the mouse spleen is harvested and splenocytes isolated. The splenocytes are then fused to any suitable myeloma cells, for example cells from cell line SP20, which is available from the ATCC. Hybridomas are selected and cloned by limited dilution. The hybridoma clones are then assayed by methods known in the art for cells that secrete antibodies capable of binding a polypeptide of the invention. Ascites fluid, which generally contains high levels of antibodies, can be generated by immunizing mice with positive hybridoma clones.

Antibody fragments which recognize one or more Botl epitopes may also be generated by known techniques. For example, Fab and F(ab')2 fragments may be produced by proteolytic cleavage of immunoglobulin molecules, using enzymes such as papain (to produce Fab fragments) or pepsin (to produce F(ab')2 fragments). F(ab')2 fragments contain the variable region, the light chain constant region and the CHl domain of the heavy chain.

The antibodies of the present invention can also be generated using various phage display methods known in the art. In phage display methods, functional antibody domains are displayed on the surface of phage particles which carry the polynucleotide sequences encoding them. In a particular embodiment, such phage can be utilized, for example, to display antigen-binding domains expressed from a repertoire or combinatorial antibody library (e.g., human or murine). Phage expressing an antigen binding domain that binds the antigen of interest can be selected or identified with antigen, e.g., using labelled antigen or antigen bound or captured to a solid surface or bead. Phages used in these methods are typically filamentous phage including fd and Ml 3 binding domains expressed from phage with Fab, Fv or disulfide stabilized Fv antibody domains recombinantly fused to either the phage gene III or gene VIII protein.

Examples of phage display methods that can be used to make the antibodies of the present invention include those disclosed by Brinkman et al. (J. Immunol. Methods 182:

41-50, 1995), Ames et al. (J. Immunol. Methods 184: 177-186, 1995), Kettleborough et al.

(Eur. J. Immunol. 24: 952-958, 1994), Persic et al. (Gene 187: 9-18, 1997), Burton et al.

(Advances in Immunology 57: 191-280, 1994); PCT publications WO 90/02809; WO

91/10737; WO 92/01047; WO 92/18619; WO 93/11236; WO 95/15982; WO 95/20401; and US Patents 5,698,426; 5,223,409; 5,403,484; 5,580,717; 5,427,908; 5,750,753; 5,821,047;

5,571,698; 5,427,908; 5,516,637; 5,780,225; 5,658,727; 5,733,743 and 5,969,108.

After phage selection, the antibody coding regions from the phage can be isolated and used to generate whole antibodies or any other desired antigen binding fragment, and expressed in any desired host, including mammalian cells, insect cells, plant cells, yeast, and bacteria. For example, techniques to recombinantly produce Fab, Fab' and F(ab')2 fragments can also be employed using methods known in the art such as those disclosed in PCT publication WO 92/22324; Mullinax et al. (BioTechniques 12(6): 864-869, 1992); and Sawai et al. (AJRI 34:26-34, 1995); and Better et al. (Science 240: 1041-1043, 1988).

Examples of techniques which can be used to produce single-chain Fvs and antibodies include those described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,946,778 and 5,258,498; Huston et al. (Methods in Enzymology 203: 46-88, 1991); Shu et al. (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 90: 7995-7999, 1993); and Skerra et al. (Science 240: 1038-1040, 1988).

In a seventh aspect, the present invention provides a method for modulating the rate, level and/or pattern of boron efflux from a cell, the method comprising modulating the activity and/or expression of a Botl polypeptide in said cell. As set out above, the "cell" may be any suitable eukaryotic or prokaryotic cell. As such, a "cell" as referred to herein may be a eukaryotic cell including a fungal cell such as a yeast cell or mycelial fungus cell; an animal cell such as a mammalian cell or an insect cell; or a plant cell. Alternatively, the cell may also be a prokaryotic cell such as a bacterial cell (eg. an E. coli cell), or an archaea cell.

In some embodiments, the cell may be, for example, a plant cell, a vascular plant cell, including a monocotyledonous or dicotyledonous angiosperm plant cell or a gymnosperm plant cell. In a further embodiment, the plant cell is a monocotyledonous plant cell. In specific embodiments, the monocotyledonous plant cell may be a cereal crop plant cell or a barley cell.

As set out above, the present invention is predicated, in part, on modulating the level and/or activity of a Botl polypeptide in a cell.

As referred to herein, modulation of the "level" of a Botl polypeptide should be understood to include an increase or decrease in the level or amount of a Botl polypeptide in the cell. Similarly, modulation of the "activity" of a Botl polypeptide should be understood to include an increase or decrease in, for example, the total activity, specific activity, half-life and/or stability of a Botl polypeptide in the cell.

By "increasing" is intended, for example, a 1%, 5%, 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%, 100%, 2-fold, 5-fold, 10-fold, 20 fold, 50-fold, 100-fold increase in the level of activity of a Botl polypeptide in the cell. By "decreasing" is intended, for example, a 1%, 5%, 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%, 91%, 92%, 93%, 94%, 95%, 96%, 97%, 98%, 99%, 100% reduction in the level or activity of a Botl polypeptide in the cell.

"Modulating" should also be understood to include introducing a Botl polypeptide into a cell which does not normally express the introduced enzyme, or the substantially complete inhibition of Botl polypeptide activity in a cell that normally has such activity.

The present invention contemplates any means by which the level and/or activity of a Botl polypeptide in a cell may be modulated. This includes, for example, methods such as the application of agents which modulate Botl polypeptide activity in a cell, including the application of a Botl polypeptide agonist or antagonist; the application of agents which mimic Botl polypeptide activity in a cell; modulating the expression of a

Botl nucleic acid which encodes a Botl polypeptide in the cell; or effecting the expression of an altered or mutated Botl nucleic acid in a cell such that a Botl polypeptide with increased or decreased specific activity, half-life and/or stability is expressed by the cell.

In one embodiment, the level and/or activity of the Botl polypeptide is modulated by modulating the expression of a Botl nucleic acid in the cell.

The term "modulating" with regard to the expression of a Botl nucleic acid may include increasing or decreasing the transcription and/or translation of a Botl nucleic acid. By "increasing" is intended, for example a 1%, 5%, 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%, 100%, 2-fold, 5-fold, 10-fold, 20-fold, 50-fold, 100-fold or greater increase in the transcription and/or translation of a Botl nucleic acid. By "decreasing" is intended, for example, a 1%, 5%, 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%, 91%, 92%, 93%, 94%, 95%, 96%, 97%, 98%, 99%, 100% reduction in the transcription and/or translation of a Botl nucleic acid. Modulating also comprises introducing expression of a Botl nucleic acid not normally found in a particular cell; or the substantially complete inhibition (eg. knockout) of expression of a Botl nucleic acid in a cell that normally has such activity.

The present invention contemplates any means by which the expression of a Botl nucleic acid may be modulated. For example, exemplary methods for modulating the expression of a Botl nucleic acid include, for example: genetic modification of the cell to upregulate or downregulate endogenous Botl nucleic acid expression; genetic modification by transformation with a Botl nucleic acid; genetic modification to increase the copy number of a Botl nucleic acid sequence in the cell; administration of a nucleic acid molecule to the cell which modulates expression of an endogenous Botl nucleic acid in the cell; and the like.

In one embodiment, the expression of a Botl nucleic acid is modulated by genetic modification of the cell. The term "genetically modified", as used herein, should be understood to include any genetic modification that effects an alteration in the expression of a Botl nucleic acid in the genetically modified cell relative to a non- genetically modified form of the cell. Exemplary types of genetic modification include: random mutagenesis such as transposon, chemical, UV and phage mutagenesis together with selection of mutants which overexpress or underexpress an endogenous Botl nucleic acid; transient or stable introduction of one or more nucleic acid molecules into a cell which direct the expression and/or over expression of Botl nucleic acid in the cell; inhibition of an endogenous Botl polypeptide by site-directed mutagenesis of an endogenous Botl nucleic acid; introduction of one or more nucleic acid molecules which inhibit the expression of an endogenous Botl nucleic acid in the cell, eg. a cosuppression construct or an RNAi construct; and the like.

In one specific embodiment, the present invention contemplates increasing the level of Botl polypeptide in a cell, by introducing the expression of a Botl nucleic acid into the cell, upregulating the expression of a Botl nucleic acid in the cell and/or increasing the copy number of a Botl nucleic acid in the cell. In one embodiment, the introduced Botl nucleic acid may be placed under the control of a transcriptional control sequence such as a native Botl promoter or a heterologous promoter.

In a further specific embodiment, the method of the seventh aspect of the invention contemplates increasing the expression of a Botl nucleic acid in a cell by introducing an isolated genomic nucleotide sequence defining a cluster of Bo tl nucleic acids from a boron tolerant organism (eg. barley cv. Sahara 3771) into the subject cell.

Methods for plant transformation and expression of an introduced nucleotide sequence are well known in the art, and the present invention contemplates the use of any suitable method. However, by way of example, reference is made to Zhao et al. (MoI Breeding DOI 10.1007/sl 1032-006-9005-6, 2006), Katsuhara et al. {Plant Cell Physiol 44(12): 1378-1383, 2003), Ohta et al (FEBS Letters 532: 279-282, 2002) and Wu et al. (Plant Science 169: 65-73, 2005).

In further embodiments the present invention also provides methods for down- regulating expression of a Botl nucleic acid in a cell. For example, with the identification of Botl nucleic acid sequences, the present invention also facilitates methods such as knockout or knockdown of a Botl nucleic acid in a cell using methods including, for example:

(i) insertional mutagenesis of a Botl nucleic acid in a cell including knockout or knockdown of a Botl nucleic acid in a cell by homologous recombination with a knockout construct (for an example of targeted gene disruption in plants see Terada et al, Nat. Biotechnol. 20: 1030-1034, 2002); (ii) post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS) or RNAi of a Botl nucleic acid in a cell (for review of PTGS and RNAi see Sharp, Genes Dev. 15(5): 485-490, 2001; and Harmon, Nature 418: 244-51, 2002);

(iii) transformation of a cell with an antisense construct directed against a Botl nucleic acid (for examples of antisense suppression in plants see van der Krol et al, Nature 333: 866-869; van der Krol et al, BioTechniques 6: 958-967; and van der

Krol et al, Gen. Genet. 220: 204-212);

(iv) transformation of a cell with a co-suppression construct directed against a Botl nucleic acid (for an example of co-suppression in plants see van der Krol et al, Plant Cell 2(4): 291-299); (v) transformation of a cell with a construct encoding a double stranded RNA directed against a Botl nucleic acid (for an example of dsRNA mediated gene silencing see Waterhouse et al, Proc. Natl. Acad. ScL USA 95: 13959-13964, 1998); and

(vi) transformation of a cell with a construct encoding an siRNA or hairpin RNA directed against a Botl nucleic acid (for an example of siRNA or hairpin RNA mediated gene silencing in plants see Lu et al., Nucl. Acids Res. 32(21): el71; doi:10.1093/nar/gnhl70, 2004).

The present invention also facilitates the downregulation of a Botl nucleic acid in a cell via the use of synthetic oligonucleotides, for example, siRNAs or microRNAs directed against a Botl nucleic acid (for examples of synthetic siRNA mediated silencing see Caplen et al, Proc. Natl. Acad. ScL USA 98: 9742-9747, 2001; Elbashir et al, Genes Dev. 15: 188-200, 2001; Elbashir et al, Nature 411: 494-498, 2001; Elbashir et al, EMBO J. 20: 6877- 6888, 2001; and Elbashir et al, Methods 26: 199-213, 2002).

In one embodiment, downregulation, knock-out or knock-down of a Botl nucleic acid in a cell or organism may effect a reduction in the Boron tolerance of the cell or organism. In a further embodiment, downregulation, knock-out or knock-down of a Botl nucleic acid in a cell or organism may effect a an increase in the Boron sensitivity or Boron use efficiency of a cell or organism. For example, downregulation, knock-out or knock-down of a Botl nucleic acid in a plant or one or more cells thereof may increase the boron use efficiency of the plant for growth in a boron deficient environment.

In addition to the examples above, the introduced nucleic acid may also comprise a nucleotide sequence which is not directly related to a Botl nucleic acid but, nonetheless, may directly or indirectly modulate the expression of a Botl nucleic acid in a cell. Examples include nucleic acid molecules that encode transcription factors or other proteins which promote or suppress the expression of an endogenous Botl nucleic acid molecule in a cell; and other non-translated RNAs which directly or indirectly promote or suppress endogenous Botl polypeptide expression and the like.

In order to effect expression of an introduced nucleic acid in a genetically modified cell, where appropriate, the introduced nucleic add may be operably connected to one or more transcriptional control sequences and/or promoters, as previously described.

In an eighth aspect, the present invention provides a cell with a modulated rate, level and/or pattern of boron efflux.

As referred to herein, a cell having a "modulated" rate, level and/or pattern of boron efflux should be understood to include any cell in which the rate, level and/or pattern of boron efflux is different to that of the wild type (or unmodulated) form of the cell. In one embodiment, the cell has an increased rate and/or level of boron efflux relative to a wild type form of the cell.

In one embodiment, the cell of the eighth aspect of the invention is produced according to the method of the seventh aspect of the invention.

In a ninth aspect, the present invention also provides a multicellular structure, wherein the multicellular structure comprises one or more cells of the eighth aspect of the invention.

In a tenth aspect, the present invention provides a method for ascertaining the boron sensitivity or tolerance of an organism, the method comprising determining the expression level of a Botl nucleic acid sequence and/or a Botl polypeptide in one or more cells of the organism, wherein a relatively high level of Botl nucleic acid sequence and/or a Botl polypeptide expression is associated with boron tolerance in the organism and a relatively low level of Botl nucleic acid sequence and/or Botl polypeptide expression is associated with boron sensitivity in the organism. Methods for determining the level and/or pattern of expression of a nucleic acid or polypeptide are known in the art. Exemplary methods of the detection of RNA expression include methods such as quantitative or semi-quantitative reverse- transcriptase PCR (eg. see Burton et al, Plant Physiology 134: 224-236, 2004), in-situ hybridization (eg. see Linnestad et al, Plant Physiology 118: 1169-1180, 1998); northern blotting (eg. see Mizuno et al, Plant Physiology 132: 1989- 1997, 2003); and the like. Exemplary methods for the expression of a polypeptide include Western blotting (eg. see Fido et al, Methods MoI Biol. 49: 423-37, 1995); ELISA (eg. see Gendloff et al, Plant Molecular Biology 14: 575-583); immunomicroscopy (eg. see Asghar et al, Protoγlasma 177: 87-94, 1994) and the like.

In another embodiment, the expression level of a Botl nucleic acid sequence and/or a Botl polypeptide may be determined by determining the number of Botl nucleic acids present in the genomic DNA of one or more cells of the organism. In this embodiment, multiple copies of a Botl nucleic acid in the genome are predictive of a relatively high expression level of a Botl nucleic acid sequence and/or a Botl polypeptide in the cell. In further specific embodiments, a relatively high level of Botl nucleic acid sequence and/or a Botl polypeptide expression is indicated by the presence of at least 2, at least 3, at least 4, at least 5, at least 6, at least 7, at least 8, at least 9, or at least 10 copies of a Botl nucleic acid in the genome of one or more cells of the organism.

In one embodiment, the method of the tenth aspect of the invention is adapted to ascertaining the boron sensitivity or tolerance of a plant. In further embodiments, the method of the tenth aspect of the invention is adapted to ascertaining the boron sensitivity or tolerance of, for example, a monocot plant, a cereal crop plant or a barley plant.

In further embodiments, the method of the tenth aspect of the invention may be used to ascertain the boron sensitivity or tolerance of an organism and then select individual organisms on the basis of the ascertained level of boron sensitivity or tolerance. For example, in the case of plants, plants having increased boron tolerance may be selected for planting in high boron soils or may be selected for breeding programs to produce boron tolerant cultivars of the plant.

Finally, reference is made to standard textbooks of molecular biology that contain methods for carrying out basic techniques encompassed by the present invention, including DNA restriction and ligation for the generation of the various genetic constructs described herein. See, for example, Maniatis et ah, Molecular Cloning: A Laboratory Manual (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, New York, 1982) and Sambrook et al. (2000, supra).

The present invention is further described by the following non-limiting examples:

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

Figure 1. Genetic variation for boron tolerance in barley. (A) Boron toxicity symptoms in leaf blades of boron intolerant (Clipper) and boron tolerant (Sahara) barley plants. Approximately eight of the oldest leaf blades from single plants are shown 14 days after boron treatment. (B) Sahara accumulates less boron in leaf blades after growing for 14 days in a range of solution concentrations. Data are means ± s.e.m. (n=3).

Figure 2. Botl mapping and phylogenetic analysis. (A) Barley-rice comparative mapping of the boron toxicity tolerance locus on chromosome 4H. Numbers indicate recombinants identified for each marker interval. The related rice chromosome three (AP008209) interval spans the position 1,861,805-1,873,065 bp. Coloured arrows I-VIII denote position and orientation of predicted rice genes Os03g0133300 (hypothetical protein), Os03g0133400 (Peptidoglycan-binding LysM domain containing protein), Os03g0133500 (AMP binding protein 1 AMPBPl), Os03g0133600 (AMP-dependent synthetase and ligase domain containing protein), Os03g0133800 (AMP binding protein 1 AMPBPl), Os03g0133900 (Serine acetyltransferase), Os03g0134000 (MuDR transposase domain containing protein) and Os03g0134300 (ATP phosphoribosyl transferase), respectively. Accession numbers are: xBotl, BV723959; xBM160, BV723960; XBM165, BV723961; xBMl78, BV723962; xBMWl, BV723963; xBMl62, BV723964. (B) Phylogenetic tree including Botl and BORl-like proteins from rice (green) and Arabidopsis (blue), constructed using PHYLIP. Numbers separating junctions are bootstrap values. The closest rice orthologue of Botl is Os01g08020. Locus accessions are according to Gramene.

Figure 3. Botl provides boron tolerance in yeast. Growth of Saccharomyces cerevisiae on solid medium containing 0 or 20 mM supplemental H3BO3. Each plate shows two independent yeast clones containing either empty vector, Sahara Botl or Clipper Botl (from left to right). Plating was a 10 μl aliquot of 10-fold serial dilutions down the plate (from top to bottom).

Figure 4. Localization of Botl mRNA in barley. In situ localization of Botl mRNA in transverse (A to H) and longitudinal (I, J) sections of Sahara (A, C, E, G, I) and Clipper (B, D, F, H, J) barley tissues grown at 1 mM H3BO3, probed with antisense Botl. Botl mRNA staining is strong at the tips of leaf blades (A, B) in mesophyll surrounding the enlarged vessels (arrowheads in B). Relative to the leaf blade tip, staining is reduced 2 cm back from the tip (C, D) but remains specific to mesophyll surrounding the enlarged vessels in Sahara (arrowhead in C). At the middle of the youngest fully emerged leaf blade (E, F) this pattern was not evident. Botl mRNA staining is also strong in the youngest tissue of the cylindrical sheath (G, H) and root tip (I, J). In roots, staining extended into the mature stele (arrowheads in I, J). A quantitative difference in staining between Sahara and Clipper leaf tissue sections is evident. (A to H) TEM fixative. (I, J) FAA fixative. Sense hybridizations were performed for all tissue sections and produced no detectable signal. The plant at centre is a 10 day old Clipper seedling. Scale bars: 100 μm (A to F), 500 μm (G to J). (K) Botl mRNA levels in 10 mm root segments taken along the root were analyzed by QPCR. Different letters above each bar represent statistically significant differences (ANOVA, P < 0.05, post hoc Tukey test). Data are means ± s.e.m. (n=3).

Figure 5, Determination of boron tolerance locus genotypes. Molecular marker and boron tolerance genotypes of F3 recombinants are illustrated with reference to the genetic map from Fig. 2A at the top. Shaded and open bars represent Sahara and Clipper derived chromosome segments, respectively. For each F3 recombinant, an F4 progeny family was grown for 21 days in 2 mM FhBO? and F4 individuals scored for leaf boron concentration and a linked molecular marker to follow the inheritance of recombinant and non-recombinant chromosomes. Boron concentration of individuals homozygous for recombinant or non-recombinant chromosomes (mean ± s.e.m, n=6) are shown, together with the boron tolerance allele carried by these individuals as determined by boron accumulation, where T is tolerance allele and IT is intolerance allele. The homozygous non-recombinants served as internal controls to take account of genetic background segregation and allowed the QTL locus to be scored confidently. Two of the four recombinants for the xBM178 - xBM160 interval were not progeny tested.

Figure 6. Boti' genomic Southern and boron accumulation analysis in boron tolerant and intolerant barley genotypes. (A) Genomic DNA from boron tolerant barley landrace Sahara (lane 6) and boron intolerant barley genotypes (lanes 1-5, 7) digested with Xba I (on left) was probed with a Clipper derived 559 bp P:Pj-labelled fragment from the Botl gene (on right). (B) Leaf blade boron concentration of the same barley genotypes grown in base hydroponics solution supplemented with H-BCfc to 2 mM for 21 days. Sahara leaf blades contain significantly less boron than those of intolerant genotypes (ANOVA, P < 0.001; post-hoc Tukey test).

Figure 7. Botl transcript levels are higher in boron tolerant barley. Botl transcript levels were analyzed by QPCR in leaf blades and roots of Clipper and Sahara barley grown over a range of H? BOs concentrations. Data are means ± s.e.m. (n=3). Figure 8. Botl provides boron tolerance and boron efflux in yeast (A) Sacύiaromyres ceievfcitie expressing Sahara Botl grow faster lompart'd to cells expressing Clipper Botl at high boron concentration in liquid culture, ANOVA, P < 0.001. (B) Sacchnromy^e^ ccieuisiiie expressing Sahara or Clipper Botl maintain a lower internal cellular boron concentration than those expressing empty vector (ΛNOVA, P < 0 05; post-hoc fukey lest). The difference between vector + clipper Botl and vector f Sahara Botl is not significant. Data are means ± s.e.m. (n=3).

Figure 9. Comparison of growth and boron content of yeast mutant ynl2~5zυ cells expressing BORl or Sahara Botl. (A) Saccharoniyces cetevisiae mutant ynl275w cells expressing BC)Rl or Sahara Botl maintain growth at high boron concentration in liquid culture Growth of cells expressing Botl is significantly ditlerenl from cells expressing BOR l at 44 hours. (""""P < 0.01, Student's i test). (B) The boron concentration ot cell" expressing Sahara BoO is significantly different from cells expressing BORl (P < 0 05 Student's i test) Data are means ± s.e.m

Figure 10 Botl sequence. (A) Sahara (boron tolerant) Botl cϋXA and predicted protein Grev and red boxes indu ate positions ot nucleotide and amino add substitution" relative to the Clipper allele, respectively. Blue lines indicate transmembrane helices predicted using TMIiVlM Server v. 2.0. (B) Structure of the Botl gene. Filled and open boxes indicate translated and non-translated evon sequences, respectively, while introns are shown as adjoining lines.

Figure 11. Botl sequence alignment. Alignment of Sahara Botl with Arabidopsis BORl (At2g47160.1) and other Arabidopsis and rice boron transporter-like sequences. Residues identical in all or at least six of the 12 sequences are shaded in black and grey, respectively. EXAMPLE 1 Introduction

Both limiting and toxic soil concentrations of the essential micronutrient boron represent major limitations to crop production worldwide. Here we identify Botl, a BORl orthologue, as the gene responsible for the superior boron toxicity tolerance of the Algerian barley landrace Sahara 3771 ('Sahara'). Botl was located at the tolerance locus by high-resolution mapping. Compared to intolerant genotypes, Sahara contains approximately four times as many Botl gene copies, produces dramatically more Botl transcript and encodes a Botl protein with a higher capacity to provide tolerance in yeast. Botl transcript levels identified in barley tissues are consistent with a role limiting net entry of boron into the root and in disposal of boron from leaves via hydathode guttation.

Of all plant nutrient elements, boron has the narrowest range between deficient and toxic soil solution concentration, and both boron deficiency and toxicity severely limit crop production worldwide. Toxicity is more difficult to manage agronomically and is best dealt with by using boron tolerant varieties. Genetic variation for boron toxicity tolerance is known for a number of crop plant species. Tolerance is most commonly associated with the ability to maintain low boron concentrations in the shoot. In barley (Hordeum vulgare), the non-agronomic but highly boron tolerant Algerian landrace Sahara was identified as a potential source of tolerance for variety improvement. In a cross between Sahara and the boron intolerant Australian malting variety Clipper, several QTL controlling tolerance were identified. The major locus on chromosome 4H affects leaf symptom expression (Fig. IA), boron accumulation (Fig. IB), root length response and dry matter production under boron toxic conditions. The ability of Sahara to maintain lower shoot boron accumulation is at least partially due to a mechanism of active boron efflux from the root. EXAMPLE 2 Botl Mapping

A map-based approach was used to isolate the 4H boron tolerance gene. Using a population representing 6,720 meioses, and gene colinearity with the syntenic region on rice chromosome three to generate markers, the tolerance locus was delimited to a

0.15 cM interval between markers xBM178 and xBM162 (Fig. 2A and 5). The corresponding 11.2 kb interval in rice contains two intact copies and one 3'-truncated version of a gene showing similarity to a family of AMP-dependent synthetases and ligases, and no other predicted gene. Barley ESTs most closely matching one of the intact copies were used to derive the marker xBM160 which co-segregated with the tolerance locus.

In a parallel approach several candidate genes in barley were also mapped. These were barley genes showing similarity to the Arabidopsis NIP5;1 major intrinsic protein and the Arabidopsis BORl efflux transporter related to bicarbonate transporters in animals. Both Arabidopsis genes are required for healthy growth under conditions of low boron supply. However, in plants the genes involved in boron toxicity tolerance may be related to those shown to function in boron efficiency. Comparisons of barley expressed sequence tags (ESTs) revealed four BORl (At2g47160.1) related genes. Mapping localized one of the barley genes (Botl) to the region of the boron tolerance QTL on 4H. Subsequently, a marker developed from the 3' end of Botl was found to co-segregate perfectly with the tolerance locus in the high-resolution mapping population (Fig. 2A), strongly suggesting that Botl encodes the boron tolerance from the 4H locus. Although barley-rice gene colinearity was found to be high in the region (Fig. 2A), the corresponding interval on rice chromosome three lacks a BORl orthologue and the rice gene most closely resembling Botl (Os01g08040; Fig. 2B) resides on chromosome one. EXAMPLE 3 Botl Copy Number in Barley

Southern hybridization using a Clipper derived Botl probe gave a stronger signal in Sahara than in Clipper and other boron intolerant genotypes, indicating the occurrence of additional Botl copies in Sahara (Fig. 6). A number of restriction enzyme digests revealed hybridizing Sahara fragments of mostly a single size (e.g. Xba I, Fig. 6), suggesting that the Botl copies in Sahara are highly similar. With Dr a I, which distinguishes the Botl Clipper copy from Sahara copies, all Botl genes could be mapped and were found to co-segregate with boron tolerance in the Clipper x Sahara Fl-derived doubled-haploid population, indicating that these genes occur in a cluster. Quantitative real-time PCR (QPCR) analysis using genomic DNA as the template indicated that Sahara contains approximately four (3.8 ± 0.17) times more copies of the gene than Clipper.

EXAMPLE 4 Botl Transcript Levels in Barley

QPCR performed using complementary DNA (cDNA) as template revealed that Botl transcript levels in Sahara were approximately 160- and 18- fold higher in roots and leaf blades, respectively, compared to Clipper (Fig. 7). Interestingly, this increase in Botl transcript levels exceeds the approximate four-fold increase in Botl copy number in Sahara, suggesting that factors additional to gene duplication may contribute to increased Botl transcript levels in Sahara. We performed a comparative promoter analysis between the Clipper and Sahara Botl alleles to search for differences that could account for the observed genotypic variation in transcript levels. Over a 1.3 kb region 5' of the mRNA transcription start site, the Clipper and Sahara Botl promoter regions are 96% identical. Based on database searches no significant differences were detected in known regulatory elements. More work will be required to determine the actual effect of these changes on Botl transcription in barley. In any case, the greater transcript levels in Sahara relative to Clipper offers an explanation for the functional difference between boron tolerance and intolerance alleles and provides additional evidence supporting Botl as the gene controlling boron tolerance at the 4H locus. In both roots and leaf blades, transcript levels were unaltered by exposure to a range of boron concentrations (Fig. 7). Lack of transcriptional activation of a boron tolerance mechanism is consistent with rapid boron efflux from Sahara roots observed following addition of either non-toxic or toxic quantities of boron and the similar rank order of shoot boron accumulation in different genotypes grown over a range of boron concentrations.

EXAMPLE 5 Botl Activity in Yeast

The ability of Botl to function as a boron transporter was confirmed in yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). Initially, approximately 2 million clones from a Sahara root cDNA expression library were screened for their ability to confer boron tolerance to yeast. Three clones corresponding to Botl were obtained that allowed yeast to grow on high boron media. The Botl clones contained complete open reading frames (ORFs) and were identical in sequence. In yeast, we then compared the ability of Sahara Botl with that of Clipper Botl or Arabidopsis BORl to confer boron tolerance. Yeast expressing Sahara Botl grew better than yeast expressing Clipper Botl in the presence of high boron on both solid medium (Fig. 3) or in liquid culture (Fig. 8). Cells expressing either Sahara Botl or Clipper Botl also maintained approximately 24% or 20% less cellular boron, respectively, than cells expressing the empty vector control (Fig. 8). This is in spite of the fact that at physiological pH boron exists principally as undissodated boric acid (pKal-pKa3=9.2-13.8) to which membranes are relatively permeable. Additionally, compared to BORl of Arabidopsis, we could show that Sahara Botl has higher boron efflux transport activity and capacity to provide tolerance (fig 9). These results confirmed that Botl, like BORl of Arabidopsis, encodes a functional boron efflux transporter and that Sahara Botl has a higher capacity to provide boron tolerance in yeast than Clipper Botl or BORl. None of the clones identified by the library screen corresponded to the tolerance co-segregating gene BM160, further supporting the notion that Botl and not BM160 is the tolerance gene.

EXAMPLE 6 Botl Sequence Analysis

The Sahara Botl open reading frame (SEQ ID NO: 1) is predicted to encode a 666 amino acid protein with 10-12 putative transmembrane helices (Fig. 10). Within the ORF, Clipper Botl (SEQ ID NO: 25) differs by 11 nucleotides, two of which result in differences to the translated protein: L305S and D592G. Residue change 305 (L; hydrophobic to S; polar) in transmembrane helix eight may impart a conformation change and residue change 592 (D; polar to G; no side chain) is likely to be located within the intracellular carboxyl terminus. Both could affect boron transport. Botl showed greater sequence similarity to several other Arabidopsis BORl-related proteins than to BORl itself (Fig. 2B and 11), consistent with Botl serving a different role to BORl, which is required for boron efficiency. Over-expression of one of these BORl- related genes in Arabidopsis improved boron tolerance, further supporting our hypothesis. The genomic sequence of a Botl gene (SEQ ID NO: 3) was obtained from a clone (accession EU176161) of a bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) library we constructed from a barley doubled-haploid line containing the Sahara 4H boron tolerance allele. It was identical to the cDNA in the coding sequence and contained 13 exons and 12 introns, including a 941 bp intron in the 5' untranslated region (Fig. 10). EXAMPLE 7 In situ Hybridization

Botl mRNA was localized by in situ hybridization to barley root and leaf blade tissue sections (Fig. 4, A to J). In roots, staining was strongest in all cell types of the meristematic and elongation zone at the tip (Fig. 4, I and J). Within cylindrical sheath tissues (Fig. 4, G and H) staining was strong in all cells of the youngest leaf blades. QPCR from 10 mm segments taken along the root revealed that Botl mRNA level, expressed as a proportion of total RNA content, was slightly greater in more mature root segments than in end segments containing root tips (Fig. 4K). The lower levels of staining in mature root may reflect the proportionally lower volume of cytoplasm in these cells, but the significant transcript levels nevertheless observed by QPCR in mature root indicate a role for the transporter in both growing and mature sections of the root. The Botl mRNA detected in young cells could potentially serve the dual role of limiting symplastic boron concentration and hence toxicity, and helping to maintain a high boron supply to newly forming primary cell walls where boron forms an essential component of the pectic polysaccharide rhamnogalacturonan II. It is probable that Botl mRNA localization in mature roots helps efflux boron from the roots. In older leaf blades, Botl mRNA staining was strong in mesophyll adjacent to enlarged vessels near the margins and was strongest at the tips (Fig. 4, A and B). In barley, leaf blade tips are the site of guttation by hydathodes. Botl mRNA localization here suggests an additional role of Botl in facilitating boron removal from the leaf blade via guttation fluid and hence in reducing boron toxicity in the leaves. Guttation has previously been shown to be a route by which substantial amounts of boron can be removed from leaves. In field conditions rainfall decreases boron concentrations in shoots of barley and wheat. EXAMPLE 8 Materials and Methods

(i) Plant Materials, Growth and Boron Analysis

Seeds of Clipper, Sahara, and F3 mapping population lines were germinated on filter paper and grown hydroponically in a base solution changed every seven days containing 5mM NH4NO3, 5mM KNO3, 2mM Ca(NOs)2 -4H2O, 2mM MgSO4* 7H2O, 0.ImM KH2PO4, 0.05mM NaFe(III)EDTA, 50μM H3BO3, 5μM MnCl2^H2O, lOμM ZnSO4* 7H2O, 0.5μM CuSO4»5H2O, 0.1 μM Na2MoO3 at pH 5.0. For progeny testing, seedlings were grown in base hydroponics solution supplemented with H3BO3 to 2 mM in a glasshouse at 15°C (night) to 23°C (day) with a 14 hour photoperiod. All leaf blades were harvested after 21 days. Plants for QPCR, boron accumulation analysis and in situ hybridization were grown in base hydroponics solution in a controlled environment growth room at 22°C (day) to 16°C (night) with a 12 hour photoperiod. For QPCR and boron accumulation analysis in leaf blades, the four oldest leaf blades (excluding the first leaf blade) and the roots were harvested from 21 day old plants grown in solution containing variable amounts of supplemental H3BO3 for 14 days. For in situ hybridization and root section QPCR, leaf blades, stem and roots of plants were harvested from ten day old plants grown in base hydroponics solution supplemented with H3BO3 to a final concentration of ImM for seven days. Samples were analyzed for boron content by inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometry or using an azomethine-H assay (Wolf, Comm. Soil ScL Plant Anal. 5: 39, 1974).

(ii) Fine Mapping of Botl

The F3 mapping population was derived from a cross between two Clipper x Sahara Fl-derived doubled-haploids which differed for alleles at the boron tolerance locus on 4H but not for alleles at other known boron tolerance loci. F2 plants selected as heterozygous for the tolerance locus region were used to generate F3 seed for recombinant screening. Cleaved amplified polymorphic sequence (CAPS) markers were made for Botl and by using barley ESTs related to genes from the corresponding interval on rice chromosome three. Primers and restriction enzymes for CAPS markers are listed in Table 3. F3 recombinants for the region were marker selected and their tolerance genotype determined by measuring leaf blade boron accumulation in F4 progeny individuals. To enable precise scoring of the QTL locus, the same progeny plants were scored for a PCR marker to follow the inheritance of recombinant and non- recombinant 4H chromosomes, so as to confirm when the observed variation in boron accumulation was controlled by segregation at the 4H locus (see also Fig. 5).

(iii) BAC Clone Analysis

We constructed a BAC library from a Clipper x Sahara Fl-derived doubled-haploid line carrying Sahara boron tolerance alleles for loci previously described, including the one on 4H (Jefferies et ah, Theor. Appl Genet. 98: 1293, 1999). Size-fractionated Hind III partially digested genomic DNA was ligated to pIndigoBAC-5 (Invitrogen) and transformed into E. coll strain DHlOB. The library represents 5.3x genome equivalents, comprises 221,184 clones and has an average insert size of 120 kb. A partially sequenced BAC clone positive for a Botl probe also contained the xBM160 and xBM162 markers that co-segregate with and flank the 4H boron tolerance locus, respectively.

(iv) Nucleic acid extraction, cDNA synthesis and Quantitative real-time PCR

For QPCR on cDNA to analyze Botl transcript levels we extracted total RNA from leaf blades and roots of hydroponically grown plants using TRIzol (Invitrogen) followed by RNeasy spin column purification incorporating DNase I treatment (Qiagen). We synthesised first-strand cDNA using Superscript III reverse transcriptase (Invitrogen) and used it as the template to amplify Botl transcripts. QPCR was also used to estimate Botl copy number in Sahara and Clipper. For each genotype, three independent PCR reactions were performed on each of five independent DNA extractions. Data were analyzed by comparing amplification of a Botl fragment to that of a known single copy control gene that served as an internal standard (alpha-amylase/trypsin inhibitor, accession number X13443). Primers used for cDNA and genomic DNA QPCR contained no mismatches to the Sahara or Clipper Botl sequences. QPCR assays were performed using methods described previously (Burton et ah, Plant Physiol. 134: 224, 2004).

(v) Primers

Primers used for amplification of CAPS markers, QPCR products, genomic Southern probes and in situ hybridization probes are listed in Table 3.

TABLE 3 - Primers

QPCR Primers

CAPS marker primers

(vi) Yeast Expression

Strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae used were INVSc2 (Invitrogen) and 1169. Strain 1169 was constructed from BY4741 by insertional mutagenesis of the YNL275w ORF (Takano et ah, Nature 420: 337, 2002; Winzeler et ah, Science 285: 901, 1999). For the comparison of Clipper and Sahara Botl, the strain used was in INVSc2 (Invitrogen) and the expression vector was pYES-DEST52 (Invitrogen). For the comparison of BORl and Sahara Botl, the strain used was 1169 and the expression vector was pYES (Invitrogen). Yeast were propagated on synthetic dextrose minimal media or in liquid culture supplemented with amino acids. Expression was induced by the addition of 2% galactose. For boron concentration measurements, yeast cultures in the mid-log phase of growth were harvested by centrifugation and resuspended in media containing up to 50 mM H3BO3. The cells were incubated for 2 h at 30 0C with shaking, and then collected by vacuum filtration of the media through Millipore nitrocellulose membranes (0.45 μm). Intracellular boron was extracted by boiling cells in deionised water for 40 min, followed by centrifugation to remove cellular debris. Measures of yeast growth were made by determining the absorbance of aliquots of cell suspensions with a spectrophotometer at 600 ran.

(vii) mRNA In situ Localization DIG-labelled antisense and sense Botl probes were generated with a DIG RNA labelling kit (Roche Diagnostics), from a 300 bp 3' untranslated region amplified from Sahara cDNA, cloned into pSPT and sequenced to determine orientation. Tissue was fixed either in FAA (50% ethanol, 5% acetic add, 4% formaldehyde, 0.1% Tween 20) or TEM fixative (0.25% glutaraldehyde, 4% paraformaldehyde and 4% sucrose in Ix Phosphate Buffered Saline), for 4 hours at room temperature, dehydrated through an ethanol then xylene series, embedded in paraffin, and sectioned to 7 μm. After de waxing in Histochoice (Sigma) and sequential rehydration, sections were treated with 20 μg/ml Proteinase K, post-fixed in 4% formaldehyde in Ix PBS, acetylated in 0.5% acetic anhydride in 0.1 M triethanolamine-HCl, and dehydrated through an ethanol series. In situ hybridization was performed overnight at 42oC in hybridization buffer (50% formamide, Ix Nasalts, 10% dextran suphate, Ix Denhardt's solution, 1 μg/μl tRNA), followed by three washes in 2x SSC for 1 hour each at the same temperature. Antibody incubation and colour detection with BM Purple were carried out according to the manufacturer's instructions (Roche Diagnostics), and slides were made permanent with Crystal Mount (Sigma).

(viii) Sequence Analysis

Phylogenetic analysis was performed using the Phylogenetic Interference Package (PHYLIP) 3.63. Selecting the PMB model in PROTDIST, a protein distance matrix was calculated for putative boron transporter sequences. The tree was generated using the neighbour joining algorithm and Tree View. To estimate the confidence limits of nodes 100 bootstrap samples were generated with SEQBOOT and the majority rule consensus tree was generated by CONSENSE. The number of transmembrane helices in Botl (indicated in parentheses) were predicted using the following topology prediction packages; TOPPRED (10), PHD (10), HMMTOP (10), TMHMM (11), DAS (11), PolyPhobius (11-12) and MEMSTAT (12).

EXAMPLE 9 Botl-like Sequences in Other Plants

Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) has seven Botl-like genes, designated BOR1-7, while rice (Oryza sativa) has four predicted Botl-like genes, named OsBORl-4.

TABLE 4 - Botl-like genes in Arabidopsis and Rice.

The nucleotide and amino acid sequences of Barley Botl, Arabidopsis BOR1-7 and rice OsBORl -4 were compared. AU alignments were performed using AlignX software (Vector NTI Suite 10: Informax, Bethesda, MD, USA). The determined nucleotide and amino acid sequence identities are presented below in Table 5.

TABLE 5 - Sequence identities of Botl-like and Botl-like sequences

Nucleotide identity to Amino Acid identity to

HvBotir/o) HvBotl (%)

Those skilled in the art will appreciate that the invention described herein is susceptible to variations and modifications other than those specifically described. It is to be understood that the invention includes all such variations and modifications. The invention also includes all of the steps, features, compositions and compounds referred to, or indicated in this specification, individually or collectively, and any and all combinations of any two or more of the steps or features.

Also, it must be noted that, as used herein, the singular forms "a", "an" and "the" include plural aspects unless the context already dictates otherwise. Thus, for example, reference to "a Botl nucleic acid sequence" includes a single Botl nucleic acid sequence as well as two or more Botl nucleic acid sequences; "a plant cell" includes a single cell as well as two or more cells; and so forth.

THE CLAIMS DEFINING THE INVENTION ARE AS FOLLOWS:

1. An isolated nucleic acid comprising a nucleotide sequence selected from the list consisting of: (i) a nucleotide sequence which encodes a polypeptide comprising the amino acid sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 2;

(ii) a nucleotide sequence which encodes a functional homolog of the polypeptide comprising the amino acid sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 2; (iii) a nucleotide sequence which is the complement or reverse complement of the nucleotide sequence referred to at (i) or (ii); and (iv) a fragment of the nucleotide sequence referred to at any of (i), (ii) or (iii).

2. The nucleic acid of claim 1 wherein the isolated nucleic acid comprises a nucleic acid selected from the list consisting of:

(i) a nucleic acid comprising the nucleotide sequence set forth in SEQ ID

NO: 1; (ii) a nucleic acid comprising a nucleotide sequence which is at least 81% identical to the nucleotide sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 1; (iii) a nucleic acid which hybridizes to a nucleic acid comprising the nucleotide sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO: 1 under stringent conditions; (iv) a nucleic acid comprising a nucleotide sequence which is the complement or reverse complement of any one of (i) to (iii); and (v) a fragment of any of (i), (ii), (iii) or (iv).

3. The nucleic acid of claim 1 or 2 wherein the nucleic acid encodes a boron- transporter polypeptide.

4. The nucleic acid of any one of claims 1 to 3 wherein the nucleic acid is derived from a plant.

5. The nucleic acid of claim 4 wherein the nucleic acid is derived from a monocot plant.

6. The nucleic acid of claim 4 wherein the nucleic acid is derived from a cereal crop plant.

7. The nucleic acid of claim 4 wherein the nucleic acid is derived from a barley plant.

8. A nucleic acid construct or vector comprising the nucleic acid of any one of claims 1 to 7.

9. A genetically modified cell comprising an introduced nucleic acid selected from the list consisting of:

(i) the nucleic acid of any one of claims 1 to 7; and (ii) a nucleic acid construct or vector of claim 8.

10. The cell of claim 9 wherein the cell comprises a fungal cell.

11. The cell of claim 9 wherein the cell comprises a yeast cell.

12. The cell of claim 9 wherein the cell comprises a Saccharomyces cereviseae cell.

13. The cell of claim 9 wherein the cell comprises a plant cell.

14. The cell of claim 9 wherein the cell comprises a monocot plant cell.

15. The cell of claim 9 wherein the cell comprises a cereal crop plant cell.

16. The cell of claim 9 wherein the cell comprises a barley cell.

17. A multicellular structure comprising one or more cells of any one of claims 9 to 16.

18. The multicellular structure of claim 17 wherein the multicellular structure comprises a whole plant, plant tissue, plant organ, plant part, plant reproductive material or cultured plant tissue.

19. An isolated polypeptide selected from the list consisting of:

(i) a polypeptide comprising the amino acid sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO:

2; (ii) a polypeptide which is a functional homolog of (i); and

(iii) a fragment of (i) or (ii).

20. The polypeptide of claim 19 wherein the polypeptide is a boron transporter polypeptide.

21. The polypeptide of claim 19 or 20 wherein the polypeptide comprises one or more Botl epitopes.

22. An antibody or an epitope binding fragment thereof, raised against the polypeptide of any one of claims 19 to 21.

23. A method for modulating the rate, level and/or pattern of boron efflux from a cell, the method comprising modulating the activity and/or expression of a polypeptide of claim 20 in the cell.

24. The method of claim 23 wherein the cell comprises a fungal cell.

25. The method of claim 23 wherein the cell comprises a yeast cell.

26. The method of claim 23 wherein the cell comprises a Saccharomyces cereviseae cell.

27. The method of claim 23 wherein the cell comprises a plant cell.

28. The method of claim 23 wherein the cell comprises a monocot plant cell.

29. The method of claim 23 wherein the cell comprises a cereal crop plant cell.

30. The method of claim 23 wherein the cell comprises a barley cell.

31. The method of any one of claims 23 to 30 wherein the level and/or activity of the polypeptide is modulated by modulating the expression of a nucleic acid of claim 3 in the cell.

32. The method of any one of claims 23 to 31 wherein the level and/or activity of the polypeptide is increased in the cell.

33. The method of claim 32 wherein the expression of a nucleic acid of claim 3 in the cell is increased.

34. A cell with a modulated rate, level and/or pattern of boron efflux.

35. The cell of claim 34 wherein the cell has an increased rate and/or level of boron efflux relative to a wild type form of the cell.

36. The cell of claim 34 or 35 wherein the cell is produced according to the method of any one of claims 23 to 33.

37. A multicellular structure comprising one or more cells of any one of claims 34 to 36.

38. A method for ascertaining the boron sensitivity or tolerance of an organism, the method comprising determining the expression level of a nucleic acid of claim 3 and/or a polypeptide of claim 20 in one or more cells of the organism, wherein a relatively high level of expression is associated with boron tolerance in the organism and a relatively low level of expression is associated with boron sensitivity in the organism.

39. The method of claim 38 wherein the expression level is determined by determining the number of copies of the nucleic acid of claim 3 present in the genomic DNA of one or more cells of the organism.

40. The method of claim 39 wherein the cell comprises a plant cell.

41. The method of claim 39 wherein the cell comprises a monocot plant cell.

42. The method of claim 39 wherein the cell comprises a cereal crop plant cell.

43. The method of claim 39 wherein the cell comprises a barley cell.

44. The method of any one of claims 39 to 43 wherein the method further comprises the selection of individual organisms on the basis of the ascertained level of boron sensitivity or tolerance.

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