Cosuppression is a classical form of eukaryotic post-transcriptional gene silencing. It was first reported in transgenic petunia, where a sense transgene meant to overexpress the host Chalcone Synthase-A (CHS-A) gene caused the degradation of the homologous transcripts and the loss of flower pigmentation. In this work, we used deep sequencing technology to characterize in detail the small RNA population generated from the CHS-A sequence in cosuppressed transgenic petunia. Unexpectedly, two distinct small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) were found to vastly predominate. Our demonstration that they guide prominent cleavage events in CHS-A mRNA provides compelling and previously lacking evidence of a causative association between induction of individual siRNAs and an example of cosuppression. The preferential accumulation of these siRNAs provides new insights about sense cosuppression that may apply to other natural and engineered RNA silencing events.
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