Characterization of AtSUVR3 functions in Arabidopsis thaliana using RNA interference
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Variability of transgene expression levels resulting from gene silencing is considered as ahindrance to the successful application of plant genetic engineering. Towards alleviatinggene silencing, I decided to screen for novel genes involved in transgene silencing and toinvestigate how these genes regulate plant development. Genes encoding putative chromatinremodeling factors, especially those including a SET domain, were selected as candidatetargets. A bioinformatic analysis of the Arabidopsis SET genes (AtSET) was performed andthese genes were classified into 6 groups based on the domain architecture. RNA interference (RNAi) vectors were constructed for ~ 20 AtSET genes and wereintroduced into both wild type lines and transgenic lines silenced for a GFP reporter gene.Surprisingly, altered developmental phenotypes were only observed for three constructs,raising questions as to the effectiveness of the RNAi approach for the chosen Arabidopsissystem. To assess this situation, I targeted a phytoene desaturase (PDS) gene using the sameRNAi approach. Inactivation of PDS renders plant a readily identifiable phenotype. Whereasthe RNAi penetrance in Arabidopsis can be very high, the expressivity of RNAi in varioustissues and among different plants can vary dramatically. Contradictory to previous reports,I found that there is correlation between transcript level and silencing phenotype. Possiblereasons for this discrepancy are discussed. No apparent correlation between transgene copynumber and RNAi phenotypes was observed. Among the three RNAi constructs that caused an abnormal development inArabidopsis, K-23 which targets SuvR3 has the highest expressivity and could reactivate asilenced GFP locus. SuvR3 RNAi lines were selfed for six generations and were screenedfor morphological phenotypes. Abnormal number of flower organs, loss of viability of malegametophytes, and decreased seedling germination percentage were found in SuvR3 RNAilines. A progressive increase in both severity and frequency of abnormal phenotypes wereseen in subsequent generations, suggesting an epigenetic regulatory mechanism involvedwith SuvR3. Alternative splicing of SuvR3 was also observed in most of Arabidopsis tissues.One of the protein isoforms, SuvR3, lacks 16 amino acids within the highly conserved SETdomain. Possible effects of isoform interaction are proposed.
Wang, Tao (2007). Characterization of AtSUVR3 functions in Arabidopsis thaliana using RNA interference. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from