Hot pepper is one of the economically important crops in Asia. A large number of gene sequences, including expressed sequence tag (EST) and genomic sequences are publicly available. However, it is still a daunting task to determine gene function due to difficulties in genetic modification of a pepper plants. Here, we show the application of the virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) repression for the study of 459 pepper ESTs selected as non-host pathogen-induced cell death responsive genes from pepper microarray experiments in Nicotiana benthamiana
. Developmental abnormalities in N. benthamiana
plants are observed in the 32 (7%) pepper ESTs-silenced plants. Aberrant morphological phenotypes largely comprised of three groups: stunted, abnormal leaf, and dead. In addition, by employing the combination of VIGS and Agrobacterium
-mediated transient assays, we identified novel pepper ESTs that involved in Bax or INF1-mediated cell death responses. Silencing of seven pepper ESTs homologs suppressed Bax or INF1-induced cell death, five of which suppressed both cell death responses in N. benthamiana
. The genes represented by these five ESTs encode putative proteins with functions in endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and lipid signaling. The genes represented by the other two pepper ESTs showing only Bax-mediated cell death inhibition encode a CCCH-type zinc finger protein containing an ankyrin-repeat domain and a probable calcium-binding protein, CML30-like. Taken together, we effectively isolated novel pepper clones that are involved in hypersensitive response (HR)-like cell death using VIGS, and identified silenced clones that have different responses to Bax and INF1 exposure, indicating separate signaling pathways for Bax- and INF1-mediated cell death.