Post transcriptional gene silencing


Post transcriptional gene silencing

Post transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS) is a mechanism for sequence-specific RNA degradation in plants similar to RNA interference in other organisms.

The process was described first in transgenic Petunia. The scientists’ goal was to produce petunia plants with improved flower colors. To achieve this goal, they introduced additional copies of a gene encoding a key enzyme for flower pigmentation into petunia plants. Surprisingly, many of the petunia plants carrying additional copies of this gene did not show the expected deep purple or deep red flowers but carried fully white or partially white flowers. When the scientists had a closer look they discovered that both types of genes, the endogenous and the newly introduced transgenes, had been turned off. Because of this observation the phenomenon was first named “co-suppression of gene expression” but the molecular mechanism remained unknown.

A few years later plant virologists made a similar observation. In their research they aimed towards improvement of resistance of plants against plant viruses. At that time it was known that plants expressing virus-specific proteins show enhanced tolerance or even resistance against virus infection. However, they also made the surprising observation that plants carrying only short regions of viral RNA sequences not coding for any viral protein showed the same effect. They concluded that viral RNA produced by transgenes can also attack incoming viruses and stop them from multiplying and spreading throughout the plant. They did the reverse experiment and put short pieces of plant gene sequences into plant viruses. Indeed, after infection of plants with these modified viruses the expression of the targeted plant gene was suppressed. They called this phenomenon “virus-induced gene silencing” or simply “VIGS”.

Further reading

*Lindbo J, Silva-Rosales L, Proebsting W, Dougherty W (1993) Induction of a highly specific antiviral state in transgenic plants: Implications for regulation of gene expression and virus resistance. "The Plant Cell" 5:1749–1759
*Metzlaff M, O'Dell M, Cluster P, Flavell R (1997) RNA-mediated RNA degradation and chalcone synthase A silencing in petunia. "Cell" 88: 845–854

ee also

*RNA interference


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