Estimating the fitness effect conferred by a transgene introgressed into populations of wild relative species from a genetically engineered (GE) crop plays an important role in assessing the potential environmental risks caused by transgene flow. Such estimation has essentially focused on the survival and fecundity-related characteristics measured above the ground, but with little attention to the fate of GE seeds shattered in the soil seed banks after maturation. To explore the survival and longevity of GE seeds in soil, we examined the germination behaviors of crop–wild hybrid seeds (F4
) from the lineages of a GE herbicide-tolerant rice (Oryzasativa
) line that contains an endogenous EPSPS
transgene hybridized with two wild O. rufipogon
populations after the seeds were buried in soil. The results showed significantly increased germination of the GE crop–wild hybrid seeds after soil burial, compared with that of the non-GE hybrid seeds. Additionally, the proportion of dormant seeds and the content of the growth hormone auxin (indole-3-acetic acid, IAA) in the GE crop–wild hybrid seeds significantly increased. Evidently, the EPSPS
transgene enhances the survival and longevity of GE crop–wild rice seeds in the soil seed banks. The enhanced survival and longevity of the GE hybrid seeds is likely associated with the increases in seed dormancy and auxin (IAA) by overexpressing the rice endogenous EPSPS
transgene. Thus, the fate of GE seeds in the soil seed banks should be earnestly considered when assessing the environmental risks caused by transgene flow.
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