Ceratopteris richardii is a useful experimental system for studying gametophyte development and sexual reproduction in plants. However, few tools for cloning mutant genes or disrupting gene function exist for this species. The feasibility of systemic gene silencing as a reverse genetics tool was examined in this study.


Several DNA constructs targeting a Ceratopteris protoporphyrin IX magnesium chelatase (CrChlI) gene that is required for chlorophyll biosynthesis were each introduced into young gametophytes by biolistic delivery. Their transient expression in individual cells resulted in a colorless cell phenotype that affected most cells of the mature gametophyte, including the meristem and gametangia. The colorless phenotype was associated with a 7-fold decrease in the abundance of the endogenous transcript. While a construct designed to promote the transient expression of aCrChlI double stranded, potentially hairpin-forming RNA was found to be the most efficient in systemically silencing the endogenous gene, a plasmid containing the CrChlI cDNA insert alone was sufficient to induce silencing. Bombarded, colorless hermaphroditic gametophytes produced colorless embryos following self-fertilization, demonstrating that the silencing signal could be transmitted through gametogenesis and fertilization. Bombardment of young gametophytes with constructs targeting the Ceratopteris filamentous temperature sensitive (CrFtsZ) and uroporphyrin dehydrogenase (CrUrod) genes also produced the expected mutant phenotypes.


A method that induces the systemic silencing of target genes in the Ceratopteris gametophyte is described. It provides a simple, inexpensive and rapid means to test the functions of genes involved in gametophyte development, especially those involved in cellular processes common to all plants.


This is the publisher pdf of George Rutherford, Milos Tanurdzic, Mitsuyasu Hasebe, Jo Banks. A Systemic Gene Silencing Method Suitable for High Throughput, Reverse Genetic Analyses of Gene Function in Fern Gametophytes. BMC Plant Biology 2004, 4:6 (16 April 2004) and is available at: 10.1186/1471-2229-4-6.

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