Virus-induced gene silencing in plants

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Virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) is a technology that exploits an RNA-mediated antiviral defense mechanism. In plants infected with unmodified viruses the mechanism is specifically targeted against the viral genome. However, with virus vectors carrying inserts derived from host genes the process can be additionally targeted against the corresponding mRNAs. VIGS has been used widely in plants for analysis of gene function and has been adapted for high-throughput functional genomics. Until now most applications of VIGS have been in Nicotiana benthamiana. However, new vector systems and methods are being developed that could be used in other plants, including Arabidopsis. Here we discuss practical and theoretical issues that are specific to VIGS rather than other gene "knock down" or "knockout" approaches to gene function. We also describe currently used protocols that have allowed us to apply VIGS to the identification of genes required for disease resistance in plants. These methods and the underlying general principles also apply when VIGS is used in the analysis of other aspects of plant biology. © 2003 Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.

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