Higher plants undergo a transition from a juvenile to an adult phase of vegetative development prior to flowering. Screens for mutants that undergo this transition precociously produced alleles of two genes required for posttranscriptional gene silencing (PTGS)--SUPPRESSOR OF GENE SILENCING3 (SGS3) and SUPPRESSOR OF GENE SILENCING2(SGS2)/SILENCING DEFECTIVE1 (SDE1)/RNA-DEPENDENT POLYMERASE6 (RDR6). Loss-of-function mutations in these genes have a phenotype similar to that of mutations in the Argonaute gene ZIPPY (ZIP). Epistasis analysis suggests that ZIP, SGS3, SGS2/SDE1/RDR6, and the putative miRNA export receptor, HASTY (HST), operate in the same pathway(s). Microarray analysis revealed a small number of genes whose mRNA is increased in ZIP, SGS3, and SGS2/SDE1/RDR6 mutants, as well as genes that are up-regulated in SGS3 and SGS2/SDE1/RDR6 mutants, but not in ZIP mutants. One of these latter genes (At5g18040) is silenced posttranscriptionally in trans by the sRNA255 family of endogenous, noncoding, small interfering RNAs (siRNAs). The increase in At5g18040 mRNA in SGS3 and SGS2/SDE1/RDR6 mutants is attributable to the absence of sRNA255-like siRNAs in these mutants. These results demonstrate a role for endogenous siRNAs in the regulation of gene expression, and suggest that PTGS plays a central role in the temporal control of shoot development in plants.
Copyright 2004 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press