Viral suppressor proteins show varying abilities and effectiveness to suppress transgene-induced post-transcriptional gene silencing of endogenous Chalcone synthase in transgenic Arabidopsis

Wenche Johansen, Robert C Wilson
Plant Cell Reports 2008, 27 (5): 911-21
Many, if not most, plant viruses encode proteins that interfere with RNA silencing pathways in plants. These proteins, known as viral suppressor proteins interfere at different key steps of the silencing pathways, and are able to suppress, to varying degree, transgene-induced silencing in plants. In this study, we report the ability and effectiveness of four different viral suppressor proteins that interfere with post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS) of the endogenous chalcone synthase gene (CHS) in Arabidopsis when the silencing trigger and the viral suppressor protein were expressed from the same transgene locus. The silencing trigger consisted of an inverted-repeat transgene construct that induces PTGS of the endogenous Arabidopsis CHS gene with high efficiency. Real-time PCR analyses were used to monitor the transcript levels of both the viral mRNAs and the target CHS mRNAs in transgenic Arabidopsis. Our results show that only one of the viral suppressor proteins tested, the p38 protein of Turnip Crinkle Virus, was able to efficiently, albeit to varying degrees, interfere with PTGS of CHS in individual transgenic Arabidopsis plants. Moreover, we show that the degree of CHS silencing suppression was dependent on the transcript level of p38. In contrast to earlier reports, we also found that constitutive expression of p38 in transgenic Arabidopsis is correlated with morphological defects in leaves and flowers.

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