Specific fragments of the sugarcane mosaic virus (SCMV) coat protein gene (cp) were amplified by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and used to construct a marker free small interfering RNA complex expression vector against SCMV. In planta transformation was performed on maize (Zea mays) inbred line 8112 mediated by Agrobacterium tumefaciens. PCR and Southern blot analyses demonstrated successful integration of the cp segment into the 8112 genome. The in planta transformation frequency was 0.1%, and the cotransformed frequency with the cp and bar genes was 0.034%. Realtime quantitative PCR of samples from different transgenic plant organs showed that the expression of the cp gene fragment in transgenic plants was variable and that the highest expression level occurred in the tassels and leaves and the lowest expression occurred in the roots. Real-time quantitative PCR was also used to measure how gene expression in transgenic T2 generation plants inoculated with SCMV changes over time. The results showed that the hairpin RNA structure transcribed from the cp gene interfered with SCMV infection and transgenic maize lines were not equally effective in preventing SCMV infection. Our findings provide a valuable tool for controlling plant viruses using RNA interference and the posttranslational gene silencing approach.
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