Targeted gene replacement in plastids was used to explore whether the rbcL gene that codes for the large subunit of ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase, the key enzyme of photosynthetic CO 2 fixation, might be replaced with altered forms of the gene. Tobacco ( Nicotiana tabacum ) plants were transformed with plastid DNA that contained the rbcL gene from either sunflower ( Helianthus annuus ) or the cyanobacterium Synechococcus PCC6301, along with a selectable marker. Three stable lines of transformants were regenerated that had altered rbcL genes. Those containing the rbcL gene for cyanobacterial ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase produced mRNA but no large subunit protein or enzyme activity. Those tobacco plants expressing the sunflower large subunit synthesized a catalytically active hybrid form of the enzyme composed of sunflower large subunits and tobacco small subunits. A third line expressed a chimeric sunflower/tobacco large subunit arising from homologous recombination within the rbcL gene that had properties similar to the hybrid enzyme. This study demonstrated the feasibility of using a binary system in which different forms of the rbcL gene are constructed in a bacterial host and then introduced into a vector for homologous recombination in transformed chloroplasts to produce an active, chimeric enzyme in vivo. Abbreviation: ribulose-P 2 ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate
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