Intron–hairpin RNA Derived from Replication Associated Protein C1 Gene Confers Immunity to Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl Virus Infection in Transgenic Tomato Plants

Abstract

The whitefly-transmitted Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl Virus (TYLCV) is the major pathogen of tomato crop in Cuba and one of the most outstanding viral diseases of plants worldwide. In this work, we have developed transgenic tomato plants, transformed with an intron–hairpin genetic construction to induce post- transcriptional gene silencing against the early TYLCV replication associated protein gene (C1). The intron–hairpin RNA produced involves 726 nts of the 3′ end of the TYLCV C1 gene as the arms of the hairpin, and the castor bean catalase intron. Transgenic tomato plants belonging to line 126, which harbor a single transgene copy, showed immunity to TYLCV, even in extreme conditions of infection (4-leaf-stage plants and 300 to many hundreds viruliferous whiteflies per plant during 60 days). Dot blot hybridization of these plants showed no TYLCV DNA presence 60 days after inoculation. Small interfering RNA molecules were detected in both inoculated and non-inoculated plants from line 126. These transgenic tomato plants of the otherwise very TYLCV-susceptible Campbell-28 tomato cultivar, are the first report of resistance to a plant DNA virus obtained by the use of the intron–hairpin RNA approach.

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