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Transient Expression of Homologous Hairpin RNA Causes Interference with Plant Virus Infection and Is Overcome by a Virus Encoded Suppressor of Gene Silencing

February 2003 , Volume 16 , Number  2
Pages  149 - 158

F. Tenllado , D. Barajas , M. Vargas , F. A. Atencio , P. González-Jara , and J. R. Díaz-Ruíz

Departamento de Biología de Plantas, Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas, CSIC, Velázquez 144, 28006 Madrid, Spain

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Accepted 1 October 2002.

Specific post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS) of target genes can be induced in a variety of organisms by providing homologous double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) molecules. In plants, PTGS is part of a defense mechanism against virus infection. We have previously shown and patented that direct delivery to nontransgenic plants of dsRNA derived from viral sequences specifically interfere with virus infection. Here, we show that transient expression of constructs encoding hairpin RNA homologous to a rapidly replicating plant tobamovirus also interferes with virus multiplication in a sequence-dependent manner. A three-day lag period between delivery of hairpin RNA and virus into the same tissues completely block virus infectivity. Several hallmarks characteristic of PTGS were associated with viral interference mediated by hairpin RNA: high level of sequence identity between the hairpin RNA and the target RNA, presence of siRNAs in extracts derived from leaves infiltrated with hairpin RNA, and helper component-proteinase (HC-Pro) of potyviruses, a suppressor of PTGS, overcame interference. No evidence for a mobile silencing suppression signal induced by transient expression of HC-Pro was observed. The approach described here has the potential to be used as a versatile tool for studying the onset of PTGS in cases involving virus infection, in opposition to dsRNA-transgenic plants, which allow primarily for the study of PTGS maintenance.

Additional keywords: agroinfiltration, homology-dependent resistance, phleomycin, spacer sequence.

© 2003 The American Phytopathological Society