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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Aug 4;95(16):9675-80.

Transgenes are dispensable for the RNA degradation step of cosuppression.

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Laboratoire de Biologie Cellulaire, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, 78026 Versailles Cedex, France.


Cosuppression results in the degradation of RNA from host genes and homologous transgenes after transcription in the nucleus. By using grafting experiments, we have shown previously that a systemic signal mediates the propagation of cosuppression of Nia host genes and 35S-Nia2 transgenes from silenced 35S-Nia2 transgenic stocks to nonsilenced 35S-Nia2 transgenic scions but not to wild-type scions. Here, we examined the requirements for triggering and maintenance of cosuppression in various types of scions. Grafting-induced silencing occurred in 35S-Nia2 transgenic lines over-accumulating Nia mRNA whether they are able to spontaneously trigger cosuppression or not and in 35S-Nia2 transgene-free plants over-accumulating host Nia mRNA caused by metabolic derepression. When grafting-induced silenced scions were removed from the silenced stocks and regrafted onto wild-type plants, silencing was not maintained in the 35S-Nia2 transgene-free plants and in the 35S-Nia2 transgenic lines that are not able to trigger cosuppression spontaneously. Conversely, silencing was maintained in the 35S-Nia2 transgenic lines that are able to trigger cosuppression spontaneously. Our results indicate that the presence of a 35S-Nia2 transgene is dispensable for the RNA degradation step of posttranscriptional silencing when host Nia mRNA over-accumulate above the level of wild-type plants. They also suggest that grafting-induced RNA degradation does not result in the production of the systemic silencing signal required for spontaneous triggering and maintenance.

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