RNase P, a ribonucleoprotein responsible for the 5´ maturation of precursor tRNAs (ptRNAs) in all organisms, can be enticed to cleave any target mRNA that forms a ptRNA-like structure and sequence-specific complex when bound to an RNA, termed the EGS (external guide sequence). In the present study, F3H (flavanone 3-hydroxylase), a key enzyme in the flavonoid biosynthetic pathway that participates in the formation of red-coloured anthocyanins, was used as a target for RNase P-mediated gene disruption in maize cells. Transient expression of an EGS complementary to the F3H mRNA resulted in suppression of F3H to 29% of the control, as indicated by a reduced number of anthocyanin-accumulating cells. This decrease was not observed in experiments where a disabled mutant EGS was expressed. Our results demonstrate the potential of employing plant RNase P, in the presence of an appropriate gene-specific EGS, as a tool for targeted degradation of mRNAs.

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