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Dev Genet. 1998;22(1):100-9.

Homology-based control of gene expression patterns in transgenic petunia flowers.

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1
Department of Plant Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson 85721-0036, USA.

Abstract

Plant transgenes may participate in two types of homology-based gene silencing. One requires transcript homology, is post-transcriptional, and is referred to as cosuppression; the other requires promoter homology, is transcriptional, and is similar to paramutation. This paper uses flower color transgenes to address the hierarchical operation of both mechanisms in plants carrying two transgene copies. It is shown that cosuppression of homologous, endogenous flower color genes by single-copy transgenes requires that the transgene be driven by a strong promoter and that the degree of cosuppression is highly sensitive to increasing transgene dosage. Together, these observations suggest that cosuppression should be a sensitive reporter of epigenetic changes in transgene transcription, such as might be caused by paramutation-like interactions between transgene loci. Intercrosses bringing together two homologous transgene loci, one a known epimutable reporter and the other a transgene inverted repeat, result in complete loss of cosuppression in some outcross progeny and a qualitative change in morphology-based patterns of cosuppression in other outcross progeny. This paramutation-like behavior suggests that the transgenes may be altered at the transcriptional level, eliminating cosuppression altogether or changing the spatial pattern of transgene transcription to produce a new pattern of cosuppression.

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