Expression or introduction of double-stranded (ds)RNA in eukaryotic cells can trigger sequence-specific gene silencing of transgenes, endogenes, and viruses. Transgenic plants producing dsRNAs with homology to viral sequences are likely to exhibit pathogen-derived resistance to the virus. Cucumber mosaic virus (CMV), a very widespread virus with over 1,000 host species, has the natural ability to suppress silencing in order to establish infection. Here, we report the generation of transgenic tobacco lines, where a DNA transgene containing an inverted repeat of CMV cDNA had been introduced. Expression of this DNA construct delivered an RNA transcript that is able to form an intramolecular double strand. Transgenic plants were challenged with CMV. Three categories of plants could be discriminated: susceptible plants, which typically reacted with milder symptoms than the wild-type control; a “recovery” phenotype, in which newly emerging leaves were free of symptoms; and plants that showed complete resistance. Northern analysis showed that the expression of CMV dsRNA caused, in some transgenic lines, the generation of short RNAs characteristic of posttranscriptional gene silencing. Those lines were CMV resistant. The correlation between the detection of short RNAs and virus resistance provides a molecular marker that makes it possible to predict success in attempts to engineer virus resistance by dsRNA.
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