Multi-gene silencing in Arabidopsis: a collection of artificial microRNAs targeting groups of paralogs encoding transcription factors



Functional redundancy often hampers the analysis of gene families. To overcome this difficulty, we constructed Arabidopsis thaliana lines that expressed artificial microRNAs designed to simultaneously target two to six paralogous genes encoding members of transcription factor families. Of the 576 genes that we chose as targets, only 122 had already been functionally studied at some level. As a simple indicator of the inhibitory effects of our amiRNAs on their targets, we examined the amiRNA-expressing transgenic lines for morphological phenotypes at the rosette stage. Of 338 transgenes tested, 21 caused a visible morphological phenotype in leaves, a proportion that is much higher than that expected as a result of insertional mutagenesis. Also, our collection probably represents many other mutant phenotypes, not just those in leaves. This robust, versatile method enables functional examination of redundant transcription factor paralogs, and is particularly useful for genes that occur in tandem.