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Virus-induced gene silencing was used to assess the function of random Nicotiana benthamiana cDNAs in disease resistance. Out of 4992 cDNAs tested from a normalized library, there were 79 that suppressed a hypersensitive response (HR) associated with Pto-mediated resistance against Pseudomonas syringae. However, only six of these clones blocked the Pto-mediated suppression of P. syringae growth. The three clones giving the strongest loss of Pto resistance had inserts corresponding to HSP90 and also caused loss of Rx-mediated resistance against potato virus X and N-mediated tobacco mosaic virus resistance. The role of HSP90 as a cofactor of disease resistance is associated with stabilization of Rx protein levels and could be accounted for in part by SGT1 and other cofactors of disease resistance acting as co-chaperones. This approach illustrates the potential benefits and limitations of RNA silencing in forward screens of gene function in plants.

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EMBO Journal

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