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EMBO J. 1999 Jan 4; 18(1): 241–248.
PMCID: PMC1171118

Production of aberrant promoter transcripts contributes to methylation and silencing of unlinked homologous promoters in trans.

Abstract

Previous work has suggested that de novo methylation of plant nuclear genes can be triggered by an RNA-DNA interaction. To test whether transcription of a promoter would induce de novo methylation and silencing of unlinked genes driven by the same promoter, a chimeric 'gene' consisting of a nopaline synthase promoter (NOSpro) positioned downstream of the cauliflower mosaic virus 35S promoter (35Spro) and flanked at the 3' end by a NOS terminator (NOSter) was constructed and introduced into the genome of a plant that normally expresses an unmethylated NOSpro-neomycinphosphotransferase (nptII) gene. Transformants were tested for kanamycin resistance and NOSpro RNA synthesis. Most produced a full-length polyadenylated NOSpro RNA, which did not induce silencing or methylation at the NOSpro-nptII target gene. One, however, contained truncated non-polyadenylated NOSpro RNA; in this plant, the NOSpro-nptII gene became silenced and methylated in the NOSpro region. Molecular analysis of the NOSpro silencing locus revealed two incomplete copies of the 35Spro-NOSpro gene arranged as an inverted repeat with NOSpro sequences at the center. Reducing NOSpro transcription by crossing a 35Spro-silencing locus partially reactivated nptII gene expression and decreased NOSpro methylation at the target locus, thus implicating aberrant NOSpro RNA in this trans-silencing phenomenon.

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Selected References

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