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Plant Mol Biol. 2000 Jun;43(2-3):243-60.

Role of inverted DNA repeats in transcriptional and post-transcriptional gene silencing.

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Department of Developmental Genetics, Institute for Molecular Biological Sciences, BioCentrum Amsterdam, Vrije Universiteit, Netherlands.


Transgenes and endogenous genes are sensitive to silencing, in particular when the genes are tandemly repeated. Their expression can be transcriptionally or post-transcriptionally repressed, or both. It is remarkable that very often, two or more genes or parts of the genes are arranged as inverted repeats (IR). Many of such IRs are dominant silencing loci. They can repress the expression of homologous genes elsewhere in the genome in trans which is usually associated with an increase in the level of DNA methylation. Trans-silencing has been explained by DNA-DNA pairing between a repetitive silencing locus and a homologous target locus. However, there is accumulating evidence that the trans effect might be mediated by dsRNA transcribed from the IR (trans)genes. Besides dsRNA-directed DNA methylation, dsRNA in plants as well as in other systems also induces the degradation of homologous RNAs and silence genes post-transcriptionally. These findings indicate that several features associated with gene silencing can be attributed to the activities of dsRNA, which would explain why inverted transgene repeats are such efficient silencing loci.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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