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Indian J Exp Biol. 2005 Jan;43(1):7-24.

Small but mighty RNA-mediated interference in plants.

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Central Potato Research Institute, India.


RNA silencing is a conserved phenomenon of regulation of gene expression by small RNAs derived from cleavage of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA). The present review deals with three overlapping modes of small RNA-mediated silencing particularly in plants. In case of post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS), Dicer, an endonuclease, cleaves dsRNA to produce approximately 21nt-long small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), which guide RISC, another nuclease complex, to destroy specific target mRNAs based on sequence complementarity with the siRNA. Another class of siRNAs of 25nt-long is also produced from dsRNA by Dicer, different from that generates 21nt-long siRNA. These longer siRNAs are probably involved in systemic silencing during PTGS and guide methylation of both DNA and histone, and induce heterochromatinization and consequent transcriptional repression of the targeted gene. Both siRNA-mediated PTGS and epigenetic modification of the genome are considered as defense mechanisms to protect against invading viruses, transposons or aberrantly expressing transgenes. Regulation of expression of endogenous genes is mediated by another class of 21nt-long small RNAs called microRNAs (miRNA). Genes encoding the miRNAs are present either in the intergenic regions, introns or coding regions of the plant genome. Cleavage of a stem-loop precursor transcript called pre-miRNA, by another class of Dicer generates miRNAs, which in association with nuclease complex similar to RISC, if not identical, either degrade target mRNA or cause translational repression. The applications of RNA silencing in functional genomics and crop improvement are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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