[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT:
In plants, the exogenous transgene transcribing inverted-repeat (exo-IR) sequences produces double-stranded RNAs that are processed by DCL4. The 21-nt small interfering RNAs generated function as mobile signals to trigger non-cell autonomous silencing of target endogenes in the neighboring 10-15 cells. The potential involvement of nuclear silencing pathway components in signal spreading or sensing in target cells is not clear. Here, we demonstrate that the exo-IR silencer (exo-Pdsi) is negatively autoregulated through methylation spreading, which acts in cis to reinforce the self-silencing of the silencer. Mutations affecting nuclear proteins DRD1 and Pol V (NRPE1 or NRPD2) relieved exo-Pdsi self-silencing, resulting in higher levels of Pdsi transcripts, which increased the non-cell autonomous silencing of endo-PDS. Our results suggest that in an experimental silencing pathway, methylation spreading on a silencer transgene may not have a direct endogenous plant counterpart when the protein-encoding gene is the target. DRD1-Pol V-dependent de novo methylation, by acting in cis to reinforce self-silencing of exo-IR, may play a role in restraining the inappropriate silencing of active protein-coding genes in plants.