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Turning off a transgene

Studies of transgenic rice plants provide insights into the role of methylation in gene silencing.

Jonathan Weitzman(jonathanweitzman@hotmail.com)

DNA methylation is thought to play an important role in gene silencing and epigenetic regulation in plants. In the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, A Klöti and colleagues describe a useful transgenic model for investigating the link between methylation and silencing (Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2002, 10.1073/pnas.152330299).

Klöti et al. studied a line of transgenic rice plants in which a β-glucuronidase (GUS) reporter gene, under control of the rice tungro bacilliform virus (RTBV) promoter, becomes inactivated in a progressive and tissue-specific manner. Some transgenic lines showed reproducible loss of GUS gene expression in vascular cells in the first homozygous generation. The methylation spread in subsequent generations, causing complete repression. The transgene could be re-activated by treatment with the methylation inhibitor 5-azacytidine. They found that methylation of the RTBV promoter resulted in the association of a sequence- and methylation-specific...

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