Efficient and stable transgene suppression via RNAi in field-grown poplars

Transgenic Res. 2008 Aug;17(4):679-94. doi: 10.1007/s11248-007-9148-1. Epub 2007 Oct 11.


The efficiency and stability of RNA interference (RNAi) in perennial species, particularly in natural environments, is poorly understood. We studied 56 independent poplar RNAi transgenic events in the field over 2 years. A resident BAR transgene was targeted with two different types of RNAi constructs: a 475-bp IR of the promoter sequence and a 275-bp IR of the coding sequence, each with and without the presence of flanking matrix attachment regions (MARs). RNAi directed at the coding sequence was a strong inducer of gene silencing; 80% of the transgenic events showed more than 90% suppression. In contrast, RNAi targeting the promoter resulted in only 6% of transgenic events showing more than 90% suppression. The degree of suppression varied widely but was highly stable in each event over 2 years in the field, and had no association with insert copy number or the presence of MARs. RNAi remained stable during a winter to summer seasonal cycle, a time when expression of the targeted transgene driven by an rbcS promoter varied widely. When strong gene suppression was induced by an IR directed at the promoter sequence, it was accompanied by methylation of the homologous promoter region. DNA methylation was also observed in the coding region of highly suppressed events containing an IR directed at the coding sequence; however, the methylation degree and pattern varied widely among those suppressed events. Our results suggest that RNAi can be highly effective for functional genomics and biotechnology of perennial plants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • 5' Flanking Region
  • Acetyltransferases / physiology
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA Methylation
  • DNA, Plant / genetics
  • Gene Dosage
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Gene Silencing*
  • Matrix Attachment Regions / genetics*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / genetics*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / growth & development
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / metabolism
  • Populus / genetics*
  • Populus / growth & development
  • Populus / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Plant / genetics
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid
  • Suppression, Genetic*
  • Transformation, Genetic
  • Transgenes / physiology*


  • DNA, Plant
  • RNA, Plant
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Acetyltransferases
  • phosphinothricin N-acetyltransferase