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Plant Physiol. 2002 Mar;128(3):844-53.

Simultaneous suppression of multiple genes by single transgenes. Down-regulation of three unrelated lignin biosynthetic genes in tobacco.

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Division of Environmental and Applied Biology, School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 4HN, United Kingdom.


Many reports now describe the manipulation of plant metabolism by suppressing the expression of single genes. The potential of such work could be greatly expanded if multiple genes could be coordinately suppressed. In the work presented here, we test a novel method for achieving this by using single chimeric constructs incorporating partial sense sequences for multiple genes to target suppression of two or three lignin biosynthetic enzymes. We compare this method with a more conventional approach to achieving the same end by crossing plants harboring different antisense transgenes. Our results indicate that crossing antisense plants is less straightforward and predictable in outcome than anticipated. Most progeny had higher levels of target enzyme activity than predicted and had lost the expected modifications to lignin structure. In comparison, plants transformed with the chimeric partial sense constructs had more consistent high level suppression of target enzymes and had significant changes to lignin content, structure, and composition. It was possible to suppress three target genes coordinately using a single chimeric construct. Our results indicate that chimeric silencing constructs offer great potential for the rapid and coordinate suppression of multiple genes on diverse biochemical pathways and that the technique therefore deserves to be adopted by other researchers.

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