Suppression of endogenous gene silencing by bidirectional cytoplasmic RNA decay in Arabidopsis

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Science  03 Apr 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6230, pp. 120-123
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa2618

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Protecting against runaway defense systems

RNA interference defends cells against invading genetic elements, such as viruses or transgenes. But while the invasive RNAs are under attack, what protects the normal endogenous RNAs? Zhang et al. identified, in the small plant Arabidopsis, a surveillance system to do just that: Preserve the normal transcriptome and keep the attack focused on invasive transcripts.

Science, this issue p. 120


Plant immunity against foreign gene invasion takes advantage of posttranscriptional gene silencing (PTGS). How plants elaborately avert inappropriate PTGS of endogenous coding genes remains unclear. We demonstrate in Arabidopsis that both 5′-3′ and 3′-5′ cytoplasmic RNA decay pathways act as repressors of transgene and endogenous PTGS. Disruption of bidirectional cytoplasmic RNA decay leads to pleiotropic developmental defects and drastic transcriptomic alterations, which are substantially rescued by PTGS mutants. Upon dysfunction of bidirectional RNA decay, a large number of 21- to 22-nucleotide endogenous small interfering RNAs are produced from coding transcripts, including multiple microRNA targets, which could interfere with their cognate gene expression and functions. This study highlights the risk of unwanted PTGS and identifies cytoplasmic RNA decay pathways as safeguards of plant transcriptome and development.

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