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Genetics. 2002 Jan;160(1):343-52.

Release from post-transcriptional gene silencing by cell proliferation in transgenic tobacco plants: possible mechanism for noninheritance of the silencing.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Genetics, National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, Tsukuba City, Ibaraki 305-8602, Japan.


Transgenic tobacco plants that overproduce luciferase (Luc) frequently exhibit post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS) of luc. The silencing was observed over five generations and found not to be inherited but acquired by the next generation at a certain frequency. Luc imaging analysis of silenced plants revealed Luc activity only in proliferating tissues such as shoot meristem and developing flower. The luc gene expression has been recovered from silencing before development of germ cells, excluding a possible recovery from the PTGS at meiosis. A systemic silencing signal transferred from older tissue likely induces gene silencing of younger tissues in which cell proliferation has been completed. Only seeds maintained Luc activity, probably because of isolation from the silencing signal by a possible partition from the parent placenta. Calli newly induced from the leaf pieces of silenced plants recovered from the silencing and exhibited strong Luc activity similar to nonsilenced leaves, further indicating that the silencing cannot be maintained in proliferating cells. Thus release from PTGS in proliferating cells is a possible mechanism for noninheritance of silencing.

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