Submitted to: New Phytologist
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: November 17, 2010
Publication Date: January 5, 2011
Citation: Benavente, L.M., Scofield, S.R. 2011. New tools to determine gene function in maize. New Phytologist. 189:363-365. Interpretive Summary: Benavente and Scofield’s Commentary is an invited short piece that comments on a manuscript submitted by an unrelated research group on the utilization of a Brome Mosaic Virus (BMV)-based system for Virus Induced Gene Silencing (VIGS) in maize (van der Linde et al. ‘Systemic virus induced gene silencing allows functional characterization of maize genes during the biotrophic interaction with Ustilago maydis’ - NPH-MS-2010-10276.R2) to be published in an upcoming volume of New Phytologist. The original article by van der Linde et al. reports on the use of a genetic tool to establish the function of maize genes in the maize-U. maydis interaction. Benavente and Scofield Commentary explains what the paper covers and why it is a significant addition to the literature. It also examines current limitations and future perspectives for the BMV-VIGS system in maize and its importance as a much needed functional tool to the maize scientific community.
Technical Abstract: Benavente and Scofield’s Commentary highlights a report in an upcoming volume of New Phytologist, where van der Linde et al. report significant progress that should facilitate the process of establishing the function of maize genes (‘Systemic virus induced gene silencing allows functional characterization of maize genes during the biotrophic interaction with Ustilago maydis’ - NPH-MS-2010-10276.R2). van der Linde et al. used a Brome Mosaic Virus (BMV)- based Virus Induced Gene Silencing (VIGS) system to assess whether candidate genes have essential functions in determining the outcome of interactions between maize and the biotrophic fungal pathogen Ustilago maydis. In this report, van de Linde and coworkers successfully established a protocol that allowed the use of the BMV-VIGS system to demonstrate the role of two maize genes, Bax Inhibitor 1 (bi-1) and Terpene Synthase 6/11 (tps6/11), in the outcome of U. maydis-maize interactions. After reviewing the findings of van der Linde et al., the authors discuss the limitations and future perspectives for the BMV-VIGS system in maize. Its applicability is mainly limited to one specific maize genotype, Va35. Benavente and Scofield highlight that the availability of a greater range of VIGS-compatible maize lines should greatly improve the utility of VIGS in maize. Other limiting aspects discussed include the transient nature of the silencing phenotype, its unequal distribution in the leaf tissues, and its variable efficiency according to the target gene. Benavente and Scofield conclude that the use of functional genomics tools, such as the BMV-VIGS system, combined with all the powerful resources available for maize genetics will bring significant advance for maize research.