Lithospermum erythrorhizon is a medicinal plant that produces shikonin, a red lipophilic naphthoquinone derivative that accumulates exclusively in roots. The biosynthetic steps required to complete the naphthalene ring of shikonin and its mechanism of secretion remain unclear. Multiple omics studies identified several candidate genes involved in shikonin production. The functions of these genes can be evaluated using virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) systems, which have been shown advantageous in introducing iRNA genes into non-model plants. This study describes the development of a VIGS system using an apple latent spherical virus (ALSV) vector and a target gene, phytoene desaturase (LePDS1). Virus particles packaged in Nicotiana benthamiana were inoculated into L. erythrorhizon seedlings, yielding new leaves with albino phenotype but without disease symptoms. The levels of LePDS1 mRNAs were significantly lower in the albino plants than in mock control or escape plants. Virus-derived mRNA was detected in infected plants but not in escape and mock plants. Quantitative PCR and deep sequencing analysis indicated that transcription of another hypothetical PDS gene (LePDS2) also decreased in the defective leaves. Virus infection, however, had no effect on shikonin production. These results suggest that virus-based genetic transformation and the VIGS system silence target genes in soil-grown L. erythrorhizon.
|Publication status||Published - Dec 1 2020|
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