A multitude of small RNAs (sRNAs, 18–25 nt in length) accumulate in plant tissues. Although heterogeneous in size, sequence, genomic distribution, biogenesis, and action, most of these molecules mediate repressive gene regulation through RNA silencing. Besides their roles in developmental patterning and maintenance of genome integrity, sRNAs are also integral components of plant responses to adverse environmental conditions, including biotic stress. Until recently, antiviral RNA silencing was considered a paradigm of the interactions linking RNA silencing to pathogens: Virus-derived sRNAs silence viral gene expression and, accordingly, viruses produce suppressor proteins that target the silencing mechanism. However, increasing evidence shows that endogenous, rather than pathogen-derived, sRNAs also have broad functions in regulating plant responses to various microbes. In turn, microbes have evolved ways to inhibit, avoid, or usurp cellular silencing pathways, thereby prompting the deployment of counter-counterdefensive measures by plants, a compelling illustration of the neverending molecular arms race between hosts and parasites.

[Erratum, Closure]

An erratum has been published for this article:
Roles of Plant Small RNAs in Biotic Stress Responses

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  • Article Type: Review Article
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