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Identification of plant genetic loci involved in a posttranscriptional mechanism for meiotically reversible transgene silencing

Dehio, C., Schell, J.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 1994 v.91 no.12 pp. 5538-5542
Arabidopsis thaliana, Rhizobium rhizogenes, gene transfer, structural genes, transgenic plants, gene expression, loci, messenger RNA
Numerous reports describe phenomena of transgene silencing in plants, yet the underlying genetic and molecular mechanisms are poorly understood. We observed that regeneration of Arabidopsis thaliana plants transgenic for the rolB gene of Agrobacterium rhizogenes results in a selection for transgene silencing. Transgene silencing could be monitored in this system by reversion of the visible RolB phenotype. We report a phenotypic, molecular, and genetic characterization of a meiotically reversible transgene silencing phenomenon observed in a rolB transgenic line. In this line, the rolB gene is expressed strongly and uniformly in seedlings, but in the course of further development, the rolB gene is silenced erratically at a frequency that depends on the dosage of rolB. The silenced state is mitotically stable, while complete resetting of rolB gene expression occurs in seedlings of the following generation. The silencing of rolB correlates with a dramatic reduction of steady-state rolB transcripts, while rolB nuclear run-off transcripts are only moderately reduced. Therefore, rolB gene silencing seems to act predominantly at the posttranscriptional level. The process of rolB gene silencing was found to be affected by two extragenic modifier loci that influence both the frequency and the timing of rolB gene silencing during plant development. These genetic data demonstrate a direct involvement of defined plant genes in this form of gene silencing.