RNA interference (RNAi) is a conserved eukaryotic mechanism that uses small RNA molecules to suppress gene expression through sequence-specific messenger RNA degradation, translational repression, or transcriptional inhibition. In filamentous fungi, the protective function of RNAi in the maintenance of genome integrity is well known. However, knowledge of the regulatory role of RNAi in fungi has had to wait until the recent identification of different endogenous small RNA classes, which are generated by distinct RNAi pathways. In addition, RNAi research on new fungal models has uncovered the role of small RNAs and RNAi pathways in the regulation of diverse biological functions. In this review, we give an up-to-date overview of the different classes of small RNAs and RNAi pathways in fungi and their roles in the defense of genome integrity and regulation of fungal physiology and development, as well as in the interaction of fungi with biotic and abiotic environments.


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