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Plant Cell. 1990 Apr;2(4):291-9.

Flavonoid genes in petunia: addition of a limited number of gene copies may lead to a suppression of gene expression.

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  • 1Department of Genetics, Free University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


To evaluate the effect of increased expression of genes involved in flower pigmentation, additional dihydroflavonol-4-reductase (DFR) or chalcone synthase (CHS) genes were transferred to petunia. In most transformants, the increased expression had no measurable effect on floral pigmentation. Surprisingly, however, in up to 25% of the transformants, a reduced floral pigmentation, accompanied by a dramatic reduction of DFR or CHS gene expression, respectively, was observed. This phenomenon was obtained with both chimeric gene constructs and intact CHS genomic clones. The reduction in gene expression was independent of the promoter driving transcription of the transgene and involved both the endogenous gene and the homologous transgene. The gene-specific collapse in expression was obtained even after introduction of only a single gene copy. The similarity between the sense transformants and regulatory CHS mutants suggests that this mechanism of gene silencing may operate in naturally occurring regulatory circuits.

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