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J Virol Methods. 2006 Dec;138(1-2):49-59. Epub 2006 Sep 7.

Methods for effective real-time RT-PCR analysis of virus-induced gene silencing.

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Department of Entomology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, United States.


We applied real-time RT-PCR to the analysis of Tobacco rattle virus (TRV)-mediated virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) of the phytoene desaturase (PDS) gene in Nicotiana benthamiana and tomato. Using a combination of direct measurement and mathematical assessment, we evaluated three plant genes, ubiquitin (ubi3), elongation factor-1 alpha (EF-1), and actin, for use as internal reference transcripts and found that EF-1 and ubi3 were least variable under our experimental conditions. Primer sets designed to amplify the 5' or 3' regions of endogenous PDS transcripts in tomato yielded similar reductions in transcript levels indicating a uniform VIGS-mediated degradation of target RNA. By measuring the ratio of the abundance of the PDS insert transcript to the TRV coat protein RNA, we established that the PDS insert within TRV was stable in both hosts. VIGS in N. benthamiana resulted in complete photo-bleaching of all foliar tissue compared to chimeric bleaching in tomato. PDS transcript levels were decreased eleven- and seven-fold in photobleached leaves of N. benthamiana and tomato, respectively, while sampling tomato leaflets on the basis of age rather than visible bleaching resulted in only a 17% reduction in PDS coupled with a large leaf-to-leaf variation. There was a significant inverse relationship (r2=76%, P=0.01) between the relative abundance of CP RNA and the amount of PDS transcript in rTRV::tPDS-infected tomato suggesting that virus spread and accumulation are required precursors for successful VIGS in this host.

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