Introduction of transgene DNA may lead to specific degradation of RNAs that are homologous to the transgene transcribed sequence through phenomena named post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS) in plants, quelling in fungi, and RNA interference (RNAi) in animals. It was shown previously that PTGS, quelling, and RNAi require a set of related proteins (SGS2, QDE-1, and EGO-1, respectively). Here we report the isolation of Arabidopsis mutants impaired in PTGS which are affected at the Argonaute1 (AGO1) locus. AGO1 is similar to QDE-2 required for quelling and RDE-1 required for RNAi. Sequencing of ago1 mutants revealed one amino acid essential for PTGS that is also present in QDE-2 and RDE-1 in a highly conserved motif. Taken together, these results confirm the hypothesis that these processes derive from a common ancestral mechanism that controls expression of invading nucleic acid molecules at the post-transcriptional level. As opposed to rde-1 and qde-2 mutants, which are viable, ago1 mutants display several developmental abnormalities, including sterility. These results raise the possibility that PTGS, or at least some of its elements, could participate in the regulation of gene expression during development in plants.
2000. Vol. 97, no 21