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Research article2012Peer reviewedOpen access

Can silencing of transposons contribute to variation in effector gene expression in Phytophthora infestans?

Whisson, Stephen; Vetukuri, Ramesh; Avrova, Anna; Dixelius, Christina


Transposable elements are ubiquitous residents in eukaryotic genomes. Often considered to be genomic parasites, they can lead to dramatic changes in genome organization, gene expression, and gene evolution. The oomycete plant pathogen Phytophthora infestans has evolved a genome organization where core biology genes are predominantly located in genome regions that have relatively few resident transposons. In contrast, disease effector-encoding genes are most frequently located in rapidly evolving genomic regions that are rich in transposons. P. infestans, as a eukaryote, likely uses RNA silencing to minimize the activity of transposons. We have shown that fusion of a short interspersed element (SINE) to an effector gene in P. infestans leads to the silencing of both the introduced fusion and endogenous homologous sequences. This is also likely to occur naturally in the genome of P. infestans, as transcriptional inactivation of effectors is known to occur, and over half of the translocated “RXLR class” of effectors are located within 2 kb of transposon sequences in the P. infestans genome. In this commentary, we review the diverse transposon inventory of P. infestans, its control by RNA silencing, and consequences for expression modulation of nearby effector genes in this economically important plant pathogen.

Published in

Landes Bioscience
2012, Volume: 2, number: 2, pages: 110-114