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Analysis of RNA role in spreading disease advances study of damaging plant infections
Date:4/21/2008

COLUMBUS, Ohio Recent research that links specific pieces of RNA to an infectious organisms duplication and spread could lead the way to the prevention of viroids, pathogens that can kill or damage food crops and other plants.

The findings and the research approach used by Ohio State University scientists also could have applications in the study of how certain viruses spread in humans because the pathogens have some similar characteristics.

The researchers have developed an experimental system to identify specific structural parts of a viroid that are responsible for its multiplication and spread of the disease.

Because no chemical treatments exist that can specifically inhibit viroid infection, an effective way to prevent viroid multiplication and spread is through genetic alterations of susceptible plants. The best approach to such bioengineering is learning exactly how the pathogens function in the first place, said Biao Ding, senior author of the study and professor of plant cellular and molecular biology at Ohio State.

Were trying to understand how the infection occurs, and how the RNA propagates itself in the cell. But more importantly, even for human diseases, is discovering how a disease spreads. Thats where the problem comes in the plant, Ding said.

Viroids resemble viruses, but consist of only small RNA molecules that dont have the protein coat found on viruses and that dont encode any proteins. Viroids so far have been shown to infect only plants.

Ding and colleagues introduced mutations to specific points within the viroid RNA to see how such disruption affected the role of each piece of the structure. They dont have all of the answers yet to explain the entire viroid RNA function, but their approach shows promise for expanding knowledge about how RNA works in the development of an organism and in the spread of multiple diseases, Ding said.

The research is published in a recent issu
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Contact: Biao Ding
Ding.35@osu.edu
614-247-6077
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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