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Trans-Specific Gene Silencing of Acetyl-CoA Carboxylase in a Root-Parasitic Plant

May 2013 , Volume 26 , Number  5
Pages  575 - 584

Pradeepa C. G. Bandaranayake1 and John I. Yoder2

1Department of Crop Science, Faculty of Agriculture University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka 20400; 2Department of Plant Sciences University of California–Davis, Davis 96516, U.S.A.

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Accepted 25 January 2013.

Parasitic species of the family Orobanchaceae are devastating agricultural pests in many parts of the world. The control of weedy Orobanchaceae spp. is challenging, particularly due to the highly coordinated life cycles of the parasite and host plants. Although host genetic resistance often provides the foundation of plant pathogen management, few genes that confer resistance to root parasites have been identified and incorporated into crop species. Members of the family Orobanchaceae acquire water, nutrients, macromolecules, and oligonucleotides from host plants through haustoria that connect parasite and host plant roots. We are evaluating a resistance strategy based on using interfering RNA (RNAi) that is made in the host but inhibitory in the parasite as a parasite-derived oligonucleotide toxin. Sequences from the cytosolic acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACCase) gene from Triphysaria versicolor were cloned in hairpin conformation and introduced into Medicago truncatula roots by Agrobacterium rhizogenes transformation. Transgenic roots were recovered for four of five ACCase constructions and infected with T. versicolor against parasitic weeds. In all cases, Triphysaria root viability was reduced up to 80% when parasitizing a host root bearing the hairpin ACCase. Triphysaria root growth was recovered by exogenous application of malonate. Reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) showed that ACCase transcript levels were dramatically decreased in Triphysaria spp. parasitizing transgenic Medicago roots. Northern blot analysis identified a 21-nucleotide, ACCase-specific RNA in transgenic M. truncatula and in T. versicolor attached to them. One hairpin ACCase construction was lethal to Medicago spp. unless grown in media supplemented with malonate. Quantitative RT-PCR showed that the Medicago ACCase was inhibited by the Triphysaria ACCase RNAi. This work shows that ACCase is an effective target for inactivation in parasitic plants by trans-specific gene silencing.

© 2013 The American Phytopathological Society