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Transcriptional Silencing of Geminiviral Promoter-Driven Transgenes Following Homologous Virus Infection

May 2003 , Volume 16 , Number  5
Pages  429 - 438

Mark Seemanpillai , 1 Ian Dry , 2 John Randles , 1 and Ali Rezaian 2

1The University of Adelaide, Department of Applied and Molecular Ecology, Urrbrae, SA 5064, Australia; 2CSIRO Plant Industry, Horticulture Unit, PO BOX 350, Glen Osmond SA 5064, Australia

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Accepted 30 December 2002.

Promoters isolated from the Tomato leaf curl virus (TLCV) drive both constitutive and tissue-specific expression in transgenic tobacco. Following systemic TLCV infection of plants stably expressing TLCV promoter:GUS transgenes, transgene expression driven by all six TLCV promoters was silenced. Silencing in the TLCV coat protein promoter:GUS plants (V2:GUSΔC) was characterized in more detail. Transgene silencing observed in leaf, stem, and preanthesis floral tissue occurred with the continued replication of TLCV in host tissues. Infection of the V2:GUSΔC plants with heterologous geminiviruses did not result in transgene silencing, indicating that silencing was specifically associated with TLCV infection. Nuclear run-on assays indicated that silencing was due to the abolition of transcription from the V2:GUSΔC transgene. Bisulfite sequencing showed that silencing was associated with cytosine hypermethylation of the TLCV-derived promoter sequences of the V2:GUSΔC transgene. Progeny derived from V2:GUSΔC plants silenced by TLCV infection were analyzed. Transgene expression was silenced in progeny seedlings but was partially reactivated in the majority of plants by 75 days postgermination. Progeny seedlings treated with the nonmethylatable cytosine analog 5-azacytidine or the histone deacetylase inhibitor sodium butyrate exhibited partial reactivation of expression. This is the first report of the hypermethylation of a virus-derived transgene associated with a DNA virus infection.

Additional keywords: transcriptional gene silencing.

© 2003 The American Phytopathological Society