Trans-kingdom cross-talk: small RNAs on the move

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This review focuses on the mobility of small RNA (sRNA) molecules from the perspective of trans-kingdom gene silencing. Mobility of sRNA molecules within organisms is a well-known phenomenon, facilitating gene silencing between cells and tissues. sRNA signals are also transmitted between organisms of the same species and of different species. Remarkably, in recent years many examples of RNA-signal exchange have been described to occur between organisms of different kingdoms. These examples are predominantly found in interactions between hosts and their pathogens, parasites, and symbionts. However, they may only represent the tip of the iceberg, since the emerging picture suggests that organisms in biological niches commonly exchange RNA-silencing signals. In this case, we need to take this into account fully to understand how a given biological equilibrium is obtained. Despite many observations of trans-kingdom RNA signal transfer, several mechanistic aspects of these signals remain unknown. Such RNA signal transfer is already being exploited for practical purposes, though. Pathogen genes can be silenced by plant-produced sRNAs designed to affect these genes. This is also known as Host-Induced Genes Silencing (HIGS), and it has the potential to become an important disease-control method in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1004602
JournalPLoS Genetics
Issue number9
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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