GC-rich coding sequences reduce transposon-like, small RNA-mediated transgene silencing

Lyudmila V. Sidorenko, Tzuu Fen Lee, Aaron Woosley, William A. Moskal, Scott A. Bevan, P. Ann Owens Merlo, Terence A. Walsh, Xiujuan Wang, Staci Weaver, Todd P. Glancy, Pohao Wang, Xiaozeng Yang, Shreedharan Sriram, Blake C. Meyers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The molecular basis of transgene susceptibility to silencing is poorly characterized in plants; thus, we evaluated several transgene design parameters as means to reduce heritable transgene silencing. Analyses of Arabidopsis plants with transgenes encoding a microalgal polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) synthase revealed that small RNA (sRNA)-mediated silencing, combined with the use of repetitive regulatory elements, led to aggressive transposon-like silencing of canola-biased PUFA synthase transgenes. Diversifying regulatory sequences and using native microalgal coding sequences (CDSs) with higher GC content improved transgene expression and resulted in a remarkable trans-generational stability via reduced accumulation of sRNAs and DNA methylation. Further experiments in maize with transgenes individually expressing three crystal (Cry) proteins from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) tested the impact of CDS recoding using different codon bias tables. Transgenes with higher GC content exhibited increased transcript and protein accumulation. These results demonstrate that the sequence composition of transgene CDSs can directly impact silencing, providing design strategies for increasing transgene expression levels and reducing risks of heritable loss of transgene expression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)875-884
Number of pages10
JournalNature Plants
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017


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