RNA silencing is a sequence-specific RNA degradation system that is conserved in a wide range of organisms. The elucidation of the mechanism of RNA silencing has stimulated its use as a reverse genetics tool, because RNA silencing strongly down-regulates the expression of the target gene in a sequence-specific manner. The major protein fraction of wheat grain is gluten which is largely responsible for the functional properties of dough. Gliadins contribute mainly to the extensibility and viscosity of gluten and dough, with the polymeric glutenins being responsible for elasticity. The aim of this work was therefore to silence the expression of specific γ-gliadins by RNA interference, to demonstrate the feasibility of systematically silencing specific groups of gluten proteins. The sequence of a γ-gliadin gene was used to construct the pghp8.1 plasmid. The hpRNA silencing fragment was designed on the basis of 169 base pairs (bp) in sense and antisense orientation with the sequence of the Ubi1 intron as spacer region between the repeats. Two lines of bread wheat were transformed by particle bombardment. Gliadins were extracted from 30 mg of flour, separated by acid-PAGE and determined by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS). Seven transgenic lines were obtained and all of them showed reduced levels of γ-gliadins. All seven transgenic plants were fully fertile and their grain morphology and seed weight were comparable to the control lines. MALDI-TOF MS showed that six peaks, present in the untransformed line, were missing in transgenic lines of the BW208 genotype whereas three peaks were missing in the BW2003 genotypes. The proportion of γ-gliadins was reduced, by about 55-80% in the BW208 lines and by about 33-43% in the BW2003 lines. The ELISA assay based on the R5 antibody showed reductions in total gliadins (μg/mg flour) in three of the BW208 lines and in one BW2003 line, but an increase in one BW208 line (C613).
- RNA interference