Gene silencing goes viral and uncovers the private life of plants

Johannes W. Stratmann, Sarah R. Hind

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review


To understand how genes influence plant responses to the environment, it is important to have appropriate tools for studying gene function. This may be a challenge for non-model plant species or plants that are recalcitrant to genetic transformation. Virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) has been established as a convenient, rapid, and efficient method for reverse genetics in a wide range of plant species ranging from non-model dicot plants to cereal crop plants. Virus-induced gene silencing is not limited to the green parts of a plant; genes can also be efficiently silenced in roots and reproductive organs. As it is established during later developmental stages, it avoids the problem of embryo- or seedling lethality, which may impede the investigation of some null mutants or transgenic knock-out plants. Virus-induced gene silencing can be designed to target specific members of a gene family, or to co-silence paralogous genes, and it has been adapted for high-throughput analysis. Virus-induced gene silencing has frequently been used to study plant-pathogen interactions and plant development. This review emphasizes the great potential of VIGS for the study of plant-arthropod interactions, ranging from plant-herbivore and plant-pollinator interactions to behavioral animal responses to plants. In spite of this potential, VIGS has not often been adopted by entomologists and plant scientists who study plant-arthropod interactions. We also provide practical considerations for developing or adopting a VIGS system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-102
Number of pages12
JournalEntomologia Experimentalis et Applicata
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Herbivory
  • Plant-arthropod interactions
  • Plant-insect interactions
  • Plant-pollinator interactions
  • Reverse genetics
  • Virus-induced gene silencing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


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