Background: Self-complementary RNA transcripts form a double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) that triggers a sequence-specific mRNA degradation, in a process known as RNA interference (RNAi), leading to gene silencing. In vascular plants, RNAi molecules trafficking occur between cells and systemically throughout the plant. RNAi signals can spread systemically throughout a plant, even across graft junctions from transgenic to non-transgenic stocks. There is also a great interest in applying RNAi to pathogenic fungi. Specific inhibition of gene expression by RNAi has been shown to be suitable for a multitude of phytopathogenic filamentous fungi. However, double-stranded (ds)RNA/small interfering (si)RNA silencing effect has not been observed in vivo.
Results: This study demonstrates for the first time the in vivo interference phenomenon in the pathogenic fungus Fusarium verticillioides, in which expression of an individual fungal transgene was specifically abolished by inoculating mycelial cells in transgenic tobacco plants engineered to express siRNAs from a dsRNA corresponding to the particular transgene.
Conclusion: The results provide a powerful tool for further studies on molecular plant-microbe and symbiotic interactions. From a biotechnological perspective, silencing of fungal genes by generating siRNAs in the host provides a novel strategy for the development of broad fungi-resistance strategies in plants and other organisms.