JOURNAL ARTICLE

Silencing GhNDR1 and GhMKK2 compromises cotton resistance to Verticillium wilt

Xiquan Gao, Terry Wheeler, Zhaohu Li, Charles M Kenerley, Ping He, Libo Shan
Plant Journal 2011, 66 (2): 293-305
21219508
Cotton is an important cash crop worldwide, and is a significant source of fiber, feed, foodstuff, oil and biofuel products. Considerable effort has been expended to increase sustainable yield and quality through molecular breeding and genetic engineering of new cotton cultivars. Given the recent availability of the whole-genome sequence of cotton, it is necessary to develop molecular tools and resources for large-scale analysis of gene functions at the genome-wide level. We have successfully developed an Agrobacterium-mediated virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) assay in several cotton cultivars with various genetic backgrounds. The genes of interest were potently and readily silenced within 2 weeks after inoculation at the seedling stage. Importantly, we showed that silencing GhNDR1 and GhMKK2 compromised cotton resistance to the infection by Verticillium dahliae, a fungal pathogen causing Verticillium wilt. Furthermore, we developed a cotton protoplast system for transient gene expression to study gene functions by a gain-of-function approach. The viable protoplasts were isolated from green cotyledons, etiolated cotyledons and true leaves, and responded to a wide range of pathogen elicitors and phytohormones. Remarkably, cotton plants possess conserved, but also distinct, MAP kinase activation with Arabidopsis upon bacterial elicitor flagellin perception. Thus, using gene silencing assays, we have shown that GhNDR1 and GhMKK2 are required for Verticillium resistance in cotton, and have developed high throughput loss-of-function and gain-of-function assays for functional genomic studies in cotton.

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