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Chemical induction of hairpin RNAi molecules to silence vital genes in plant roots

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Understanding the functions encoded by plant genes can be facilitated by reducing transcript levels by hairpin RNA (hpRNA) mediated silencing. A bottleneck to this technology occurs when a gene encodes a phenotype that is necessary for cell viability and silencing the gene inhibits transformation. Here we compared the use of two chemically inducible plant promoter systems to drive hpRNA mediated gene silencing in transgenic, hairy roots. We cloned the gene encoding the Yellow Fluorescence Protein (YFP) into the dexamethasone inducible vector pOpOff2 and into the estradiol induced vector pER8. We then cloned a hpRNA targeting YFP under the regulation of the inducible promoters, transformed Medicago truncatula roots, and quantified YFP fluorescence and mRNA levels. YFP fluorescence was normal in pOpOff2 transformed roots without dexamethasone but was reduced with dexamethasone treatment. Interestingly, dexamethasone removal did not reverse YFP inhibition. YFP expression in roots transformed with pER8 was low even in the absence of inducer. We used the dexamethasone system to silence acetyl-CoA carboxylase gene and observed prolific root growth when this construct was transformed into Medicago until dexamethasone was applied. Our study shows that dexamethasone inducibility can be useful to silence vital genes in transgenic roots.

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