Agronomy and Horticulture Department




Date of this Version



BMC Plant Biology (2018) 18:123


© The Author(s). 2018

Open access


Background: Although the draft genome of sorghum is available, the understanding of gene function is limited due to the lack of extensive mutant resources. Virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) is an alternative to mutant resources to study gene function. This study reports an improved and efficient method for Brome mosaic virus (BMV)-based VIGS in sorghum.

Methods: Sorghum plants were rub-inoculated with sap prepared by grinding 2 g of infected Nicotiana benthamiana leaf in 1 ml 10 mM potassium phosphate buffer (pH 6.8) and 100 mg of carborundum abrasive. The sap was rubbed on two to three top leaves of sorghum. Inoculated plants were covered with a dome to maintain high humidity and kept in the dark for two days at 18 °C. Inoculated plants were then transferred to 18 °C growth chamber with 12 h/12 h light/dark cycle.

Results: This study shows that BMV infection rate can be significantly increased in sorghum by incubating plants at 18 °C. A substantial variation in BMV infection rate in sorghum genotypes/varieties was observed and BTx623 was the most susceptible. Ubiquitin (Ubiq) silencing is a better visual marker for VIGS in sorghum compared to other markers such as Magnesium Chelatase subunit H (ChlH) and Phytoene desaturase (PDS). The use of antisense strand of a gene in BMV was found to significantly increase the efficiency and extent of VIGS in sorghum. In situ hybridization experiments showed that the non-uniform silencing in sorghum is due to the uneven spread of the virus. This study further demonstrates that genes could also be silenced in the inflorescence of sorghum.

Conclusion: In general, sorghum plants are difficult to infect with BMV and therefore recalcitrant to VIGS studies. However, by using BMV as a vector, a BMV susceptible sorghum variety, 18 °C for incubating plants, and antisense strand of the target gene fragment, efficient VIGS can still be achieved in sorghum.