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Robust RNAi-Based Resistance to Mixed Infection of Three Viruses in Soybean Plants Expressing Separate Short Hairpins from a Single Transgene

November 2011 , Volume 101 , Number  11
Pages  1,264 - 1,269

Xiuchun Zhang, Shirley Sato, Xiaohong Ye, Anne E. Dorrance, T. Jack Morris, Thomas E. Clemente, and Feng Qu

First, fourth, and seventh authors: Department of Plant Pathology, The Ohio State University, 1680 Madison Ave, Wooster 44691; first author: Key Laboratory of Tropical Crop Biotechnology, Ministry of Agriculture, Institute of Tropical Biosciences and Biotechnology, Chinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural Sciences, Haikou 571101, China; second and sixth authors: Center for Plant Science Innovation and Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, University of Nebraska, Lincoln 68588; and third and fifth authors: Nebraska Center for Virology and School of Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska, Lincoln 68583.

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Accepted for publication 3 May 2011.

Transgenic plants expressing double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) of virus origin have been previously shown to confer resistance to virus infections through the highly conserved RNA-targeting process termed RNA silencing or RNA interference (RNAi). In this study we applied this strategy to soybean plants and achieved robust resistance to multiple viruses with a single dsRNA-expressing transgene. Unlike previous reports that relied on the expression of one long inverted repeat (IR) combining sequences of several viruses, our improved strategy utilized a transgene designed to express several shorter IRs. Each of these short IRs contains highly conserved sequences of one virus, forming dsRNA of less than 150 bp. These short dsRNA stems were interspersed with single-stranded sequences to prevent homologous recombination during the transgene assembly process. Three such short IRs with sequences of unrelated soybean-infecting viruses (Alfalfa mosaic virus, Bean pod mottle virus, and Soybean mosaic virus) were assembled into a single transgene under control of the 35S promoter and terminator of Cauliflower mosaic virus. Three independent transgenic lines were obtained and all of them exhibited strong systemic resistance to the simultaneous infection of the three viruses. These results demonstrate the effectiveness of this very straight forward strategy for engineering RNAi-based virus resistance in a major crop plant. More importantly, our strategy of construct assembly makes it easy to incorporate additional short IRs in the transgene, thus expanding the spectrum of virus resistance. Finally, this strategy could be easily adapted to control virus problems of other crop plants.

© 2011 The American Phytopathological Society