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Plant Biotechnol J. 2014 Dec;12(9):1319-28. doi: 10.1111/pbi.12243. Epub 2014 Aug 18.

Rootstock-to-scion transfer of transgene-derived small interfering RNAs and their effect on virus resistance in nontransgenic sweet cherry.

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  • 1Plant Biotechnology Resource and Outreach Center, Department of Horticulture, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA.


Small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) are silencing signals in plants. Virus-resistant transgenic rootstocks developed through siRNA-mediated gene silencing may enhance virus resistance of nontransgenic scions via siRNAs transported from the transgenic rootstocks. However, convincing evidence of rootstock-to-scion movement of siRNAs of exogenous genes in woody plants is still lacking. To determine whether exogenous siRNAs can be transferred, nontransgenic sweet cherry (scions) was grafted on transgenic cherry rootstocks (TRs), which was transformed with an RNA interference (RNAi) vector expressing short hairpin RNAs of the genomic RNA3 of Prunus necrotic ringspot virus (PNRSV-hpRNA). Small RNA sequencing was conducted using bud tissues of TRs and those of grafted (rootstock/scion) trees, locating at about 1.2 m above the graft unions. Comparison of the siRNA profiles revealed that the PNRSV-hpRNA was efficient in producing siRNAs and eliminating PNRSV in the TRs. Furthermore, our study confirmed, for the first time, the long-distance (1.2 m) transfer of PNRSV-hpRNA-derived siRNAs from the transgenic rootstock to the nontransgenic scion in woody plants. Inoculation of nontransgenic scions with PNRSV revealed that the transferred siRNAs enhanced PNRSV resistance of the scions grafted on the TRs. Collectively, these findings provide the foundation for 'using transgenic rootstocks to produce products of nontransgenic scions in fruit trees'.

© 2014 Society for Experimental Biology, Association of Applied Biologists and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


grafting; hairpin RNA; rootstock-to-scion transfer; small interfering RNAs; transgenic tree; virus resistance

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