Knock-down of gene expression throughout meiosis and pollen formation by virus-induced gene silencing in Arabidopsis thaliana

Vanesa Calvo-Baltanás*, Joke De Jaeger-Braet, Wei Yuan Cher, Nils Schönbeck, Eunyoung Chae, Arp Schnittger, Erik Wijnker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Through the inactivation of genes that act during meiosis it is possible to direct the genetic make-up of plants in subsequent generations and optimize breeding schemes. Offspring may show higher recombination of parental alleles resulting from elevated crossover (CO) incidence, or by omission of meiotic divisions, offspring may become polyploid. However, stable mutations in genes essential for recombination, or for either one of the two meiotic divisions, can have pleiotropic effects on plant morphology and line stability, for instance by causing lower fertility. Therefore, it is often favorable to temporarily change gene expression during meiosis rather than relying on stable null mutants. It was previously shown that virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) can be used to transiently reduce CO frequencies. We asked if VIGS could also be used to modify other processes throughout meiosis and during pollen formation in Arabidopsis thaliana. Here, we show that VIGS-mediated knock-down of FIGL1, RECQ4A/B, OSD1 and QRT2 can induce (i) an increase in chiasma numbers, (ii) unreduced gametes and (iii) pollen tetrads. We further show that VIGS can target both sexes and different genetic backgrounds and can simultaneously silence different gene copies. The successful knock-down of these genes in A. thaliana suggests that VIGS can be exploited to manipulate any process during or shortly after meiosis. Hence, the transient induction of changes in inheritance patterns can be used as a powerful tool for applied research and biotechnological applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-37
JournalPlant Journal
Issue number1
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


  • Arabidopsis thaliana
  • increase of crossover recombination
  • meiosis
  • pollen tetrads
  • unreduced gametes
  • virus-induced gene silencing


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