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Biol Chem. 2010 Dec;391(12):1379-90. doi: 10.1515/BC.2010.148.

Characterization of plant miRNAs and small RNAs derived from potato spindle tuber viroid (PSTVd) in infected tomato.

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  • 1Institut für Physikalische Biologie, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, Germany.


To defend against invading pathogens, plants possess RNA silencing mechanisms involving small RNAs (miRNAs, siRNAs). Also viroids - plant infectious, non-coding, unencapsidated RNA - cause the production of viroid-specific small RNAs (vsRNA), but viroids do escape the cytoplasmic silencing mechanism. Viroids with minor sequence variations can produce different symptoms in infected plants, suggesting an involvement of vsRNAs in symptom production. We analyzed by deep sequencing the spectrum of vsRNAs induced by the PSTVd strain AS1, which causes strong symptoms such as dwarfing and necrosis upon infection of tomato plants cv Rutgers. Indeed, vsRNAs found with highest frequency mapped to the pathogenicity-modulating domain of PSTVd, supporting an involvement of vsRNAs in symptom production. Furthermore, in PSTVd AS1-infected plants the accumulation of some endogenous miRNAs, which are involved in leaf development via regulation of transcription factors, is suppressed. The latter finding supports the hypothesis that a miRNA-dependent (mis)regulation of transcription factors causes the viroid symptoms.

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