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New Phytol. 2013 Jan;197(2):394-404. doi: 10.1111/nph.12022. Epub 2012 Nov 19.

Emerging role for RNA-based regulation in plant immunity.

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Molecular Cell Physiology, Bielefeld University, D-33615, Bielefeld, Germany.


Infection by phytopathogenic bacteria triggers massive changes in plant gene expression, which are thought to be mostly a result of transcriptional reprogramming. However, evidence is accumulating that plants additionally use post-transcriptional regulation of immune-responsive mRNAs as a strategic weapon to shape the defense-related transcriptome. Cellular RNA-binding proteins regulate RNA stability, splicing or mRNA export of immune-response transcripts. In particular, mutants defective in alternative splicing of resistance genes exhibit compromised disease resistance. Furthermore, detection of bacterial pathogens induces the differential expression of small non-coding RNAs including microRNAs that impact the host defense transcriptome. Phytopathogenic bacteria in turn have evolved effector proteins to inhibit biogenesis and/or activity of cellular microRNAs. Whereas RNA silencing has long been known as an antiviral defense response, recent findings also reveal a major role of this process in antibacterial defense. Here we review the function of RNA-binding proteins and small RNA-directed post-transcriptional regulation in antibacterial defense. We mainly focus on studies that used the model system Arabidopsis thaliana and also discuss selected examples from other plants.

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