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Transgenic cassava resistance to African cassava mosaic virus is enhanced by viral DNA-A bidirectional promoter-derived siRNAs

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Expression of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) homologous to virus sequences can effectively interfere with RNA virus infection in plant cells by triggering RNA silencing. Here we applied this approach against a DNA virus, African cassava mosaic virus (ACMV), in its natural host cassava. Transgenic cassava plants were developed to express small interfering RNAs (siRNA) from a CaMV 35S promoter-controlled, intron-containing dsRNA cognate to the common region-containing bidirectional promoter of ACMV DNA-A. In two of three independent transgenic lines, accelerated plant recovery from ACMV-NOg infection was observed, which correlates with the presence of transgene-derived siRNAs 21–24 nt in length. Overall, cassava mosaic disease symptoms were dramatically attenuated in these two lines and less viral DNA accumulation was detected in their leaves than in those of wild-type plants. In a transient replication assay using leaf disks from the two transgenic lines, strongly reduced accumulation of viral single-stranded DNA was observed. Our study suggests that a natural RNA silencing mechanism targeting DNA viruses through production of virus-derived siRNAs is turned on earlier and more efficiently in transgenic plants expressing dsRNA cognate to the viral promoter and common region.

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African cassava mosaic virus


coat protein


movement protein


cassava mosaic disease


common region


double-stranded DNA


double-stranded RNA


bidirectional promoter of ACMV


post-transcriptional gene silencing


RNA-dependent RNA polymerase


replication enhancer protein


replication associated protein


small interfering RNAs


single-stranded DNA


transcriptional activator protein


transcriptional gene silencing


Mungbean yellow mosaic virus


wild type


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We thank Dr. John Stanley (John Innes Centre) for the ACMV clones, Dr. Johannes Fütterer (ETH Zurich) for helpful discussions. This work was supported by grants from the Swiss Centre for International Agriculture (ZIL), the Eiselen-Foundation-Ulm, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative and the Indo-Swiss Collaboration in Biotechnology.

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Correspondence to Peng Zhang.

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Vanderschuren, H., Akbergenov, R., Pooggin, M.M. et al. Transgenic cassava resistance to African cassava mosaic virus is enhanced by viral DNA-A bidirectional promoter-derived siRNAs. Plant Mol Biol 64, 549–557 (2007).

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