Annu. Rev. Plant Physiol. Plant Mol. Biol. 51: 167-94. (2000)
(Trans)gene silencing in plants: How many mechanisms?
M Fagard and H Vaucheret

Epigenetic silencing of transgenes and endogenous genes can occur at the transcriptional level (TGS) or at the posttranscriptional level (PTGS). Because they can be induced by transgenes and viruses, TGS and PTGS probably reflect alternative (although not exclusive) responses to two important stress factors that the plant's genome has to face: the stable integration of additional DNA into chromosomes and the extrachromosomal replication of a viral genome. TGS, which results from the impairment of transcription initiation through methylation and/or chromatin condensation, could derive from the mechanisms by which transposed copies of mobile elements and T-DNA insertions are tamed. PTGS, which results from the degradation of mRNA when aberrant sense, antisense, or double-stranded forms of RNA are produced, could derive from the process of recovery by which cells eliminate pathogens (RNA viruses) or their undesirable products (RNA encoded by DNA viruses). Mechanisms involving DNA-DNA, DNA-RNA, or RNA-RNA interactions are discussed to explain the various pathways for triggering (trans)gene silencing in plants.