Researchers at Cambridge University have been studying the process of gene silencing in transgenic plants, and have cloned a genetic modifier that could reduce transgene instability. Dr Ian Furner will be presenting the results of the study at the Society for Experimental Biology conference on Monday 8 April.
Gene silencing is a naturally occurring process by which genes can become shut off within a plant. When transgenes are introduced into plants they can also show gene silencing. Genes which share sequence similarity are said to be homologous. When transgenes showing homology to normal cellular genes are introduced they can show a special form of silencing called homology-dependent gene silencing and this typically results in the silencing of one or both genes.
Dr Furner’s group studied the homology-dependent silencing process in the Arabidopsis plant. By introducing extra copies of the chalcone synthase gene (CHS) into the plant, they silenced the endogenous gene. Arabidopsis plants grown in bright white light are purple due to the accumulation of the purple pigment anthocyanin. Plants grown at low light levels and plants showing CHS silencing grown at high light levels are green with little anthocyanin.
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