Reverse genetics of floral scent: Application of tobacco rattle virus-based gene silencing in petunia

Ben Spitzer, Michal Moyal Ben Zvi, Marianna Ovadis, Elena Marhevka, Oren Barkai, Orit Edelbaum, Ira Marton, Tania Masci, Michal Alon, Shai Morin, Ilana Rogachev, Asaph Aharoni, Alexander Vainstein*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Floral fragrance is responsible for attracting pollinators as well as repelling pathogens and pests. As such, it is of immense biological importance. Molecular dissection of the mechanisms underlying scent production would benefit from the use of model plant systems with big floral organs that generate an array of volatiles and that are amenable to methods of forward and reverse genetics. One candidate is petunia (Petunia hybrida), which has emerged as a convenient model system, and both RNAi and overexpression approaches using transgenes have been harnessed for the study of floral volatiles. Virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) is characterized by a simple inoculation procedure and rapid results relative to transgenesis. Here, we demonstrate the applicability of the tobacco rattle virus-based VIGS system to studies of floral scent. Suppression of the anthocyanin pathway via chalcone synthase silencing was used as a reporter, allowing easy visual identification of anthocyaninless silenced flowers/tissues with no effect on the level of volatile emissions. Use of tobacco rattle virus constructs containing target genes involved in phenylpropanoid volatile production, fused to the chalcone synthase reporter, allowed simple identification of flowers with suppressed activity of the target genes. The applicability of VIGS was exemplified with genes encoding S-adenosyl-L-methionine:benzoic acid/salicylic acid carboxyl methyltransferase, phenylacetaldehyde synthase, and the myb transcription factor ODORANT1. Because this high-throughput reverse-genetics approach was applicable to both structural and regulatory genes responsible for volatile production, it is expected to be highly instrumental for larges-cale scanning and functional characterization of novel scent genes.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1241-1250
Number of pages10
JournalPlant Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2007


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