Plant Science

RNAi Makes Plants Ill

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Science  14 Feb 2003:
Vol. 299, Issue 5609, pp. 979
DOI: 10.1126/science.299.5609.979c

Plants use a number of strategies to repel viral invaders, including targeting viral RNA for degradation, a mechanism known as RNA silencing. In turn, many plant viruses defend themselves by endeavoring to suppress RNA silencing. Successful infection often results in developmental defects, and Kasschau et al. report that these defects may be a consequence of this warfare.

RNA silencing is part of a set of pathways that includes microRNAs (miRNAs)—small genome-encoded RNAs that posttranscriptionally repress expression of their target messenger RNAs during normal growth. Abrogation of RNA silencing in Arabidopsis by a turnip mosaic virus suppressor protein results in the dysfunction of a number of miRNAs and the mis-regulation of their target genes, which control a range of developmental processes. It is likely that the ectopic expression of these (and other) genes causes many of the disease symptoms seen in Arabidopsis and in many other viral plant diseases. — GR

Dev. Cell4, 205 (2003).

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