Study results appeared online Feb. 3 in Nature Genetics.
What is RNA silencing and what is its significance? RNA is made from DNA. Many RNAs are used to make proteins. However, these RNAs can be regulated by "small RNA" (snippets of RNA) that bind to them. The binding leads to suppression of gene expression. Known as RNA gene silencing, this suppression plays an important role in regulating plant growth and development. When RNA silencing is impaired by effectors, the plant is more susceptible to disease.
Basic RNA silencing processes are conserved in plant and mammalian systems. They serve as a major defense mechanism against viruses in plants and invertebrates. RNA silencing has also been implicated in anti-bacterial plant defense. The discovery by Ma's lab is the first to show that RNA silencing regulates plant defense against eukaryotic pathogens.
"Phytophthora effectors have a motif or signature a specific protein code that allows the proteins to be delivered into host cells," Ma said. "A similar motif is found in effectors of animal parasites, such as the malaria pathogen Plasmodium, suggesting an evolutionarily conserved means for delivering effectors that affect host immunity."
Next, her lab will work on extensively screening other pathogens and identifying their effectors' direct targets so that novel control strategies can be developed to manage the diseases the pathogens cause.
Ma was joined in the study by UC Riverside's Yongli Qiao, Lin Liu, Cristina Flores, James Wong, Jinxia Shi, Xianbing Wang, Xigang Liu, Qijun Xiang, Shushu Jiang, Howard S. Judelson and Xuemei Chen; Fuchun Zhang at Xinjiang University, China; and Qin Xiong
|Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala|
University of California - Riverside