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hpRNA-mediated targeting of the Arabidopsis FAD2 gene gives highly efficient and stable silencing

Stoutjesdijk, P.A., Singh, S.P., Liu, Q., Hurlstone, C.J., Waterhouse, P.A., Green, A.G.
Plant physiology 2002 v.129 no.4 pp. 1723-1731
Arabidopsis thaliana, transgenic plants, mutants, seeds, plant proteins, stearoyl-CoA desaturase, antisense RNA, enzyme activity, genetic transformation, gene frequency, nucleotide sequences, chemical constituents of plants, mutation, double-stranded RNA, gene silencing
The endogenous delta12-desaturase gene (FAD2) in Arabidopsis was targeted for silencing using seed-specific cosuppression (CS), hairpin (HP) RNA (hpRNA), and intron-spliced HP (iHP) constructs. The iHP construct, incorporating the 120-bp 3'-untranslated region of the FAD2 gene, gave the highest degree of silencing. In some iHP lines delta12-desaturase activity was reduced to levels as low as those in the null fad2-1 mutant, and every primary transformant showed a pronounced reduction in FAD2 activity. One highly silenced iHP line was propagated for five generations and showed no reversion or diminution in its degree of silencing. About 75% of plants transformed with the HP construct, targeting the FAD2 coding region, gave dramatically reduced delta12-desaturase activity, whereas approximately 50% of plants transformed with the CS construct, containing the same coding region sequence, showed silencing at a much less profound level. In all three types of constructs, the degree of silencing was increased when the transgenes were homozygous, but this was much more pronounced for the CS constructs. All three types of construct could give a single locus that was capable of effective silencing, but in the one such CS line where this was the case, the locus had a complex insertion pattern. This is consistent with the concept that posttranscriptional gene silencing is induced by double-stranded, or self-complementary, RNA that is formed in cases of CS by complex insertion patterns at a single locus and that the most effective way of generating profoundly silenced plants is by the use of constructs that encode hpRNAs. Furthermore, these results demonstrate for the first time, to our knowledge, that iHP constructs targeted against an endogenous seed-expressed gene are clearly able to generate phenotypic changes that are inherited stably over several generations, making this approach a reliable technique for genetic modification of seed quality and possibly other traits in agricultural plants.