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SUMMARY

Gene silencing may have a direct or indirect impact on many biological processes in eukaryotic cells, and is a useful tool for the determination of the roles of specific genes. In this article, we report silencing in Phytophthora infestans, an oomycete pathogen of potato and tomato. Gene silencing is known to occur in P. infestans, but its genetic basis has yet to be determined. Genes encoding the major components of the RNA interference (RNAi) pathway, Dicer-like (Pidcl1), Argonaute (Piago1–5) and RNA-directed RNA polymerase (Pirdr1), were identified in the P. infestans genome by comparative genomics, together with families of other genes potentially involved in gene silencing, such as histone deacetylases, histone methyltransferases, DEAD helicases, chromodomain proteins and a class 1 RNaseIII. Real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction demonstrated transcript accumulation for all candidate genes throughout the asexual lifecycle and plant infection, but at different levels of mRNA abundance. A functional assay was developed in which silencing of the sporulation-associated Picdc14 gene was released by the treatment of protoplasts with in vitro-synthesized double-stranded RNAs homologous to Pidcl1, Piago1/2 and histone deacetylase Pihda1. These results suggest that the components of gene silencing, namely Dicer-like, Argonaute and histone deacetylase, are functional in P. infestans. Our data demonstrate that this oomycete possesses canonical gene silencing pathways similar to those of other eukaryotes.