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Nat Rev Microbiol. 2013 Nov;11(11):745-60. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro3120.

RNA silencing suppression by plant pathogens: defence, counter-defence and counter-counter-defence.

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Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH-Zurich), Department of Biology, Zurich, Switzerland.


RNA silencing is a central regulator of gene expression in most eukaryotes and acts both at the transcriptional level through DNA methylation and at the post-transcriptional level through direct mRNA interference mediated by small RNAs. In plants and invertebrates, the same pathways also function directly in host defence against viruses by targeting viral RNA for degradation. Successful viruses have consequently evolved diverse mechanisms to avoid silencing, most notably through the expression of viral suppressors of RNA silencing. RNA silencing suppressors have also been recently identified in plant pathogenic bacteria and oomycetes, suggesting that disruption of host silencing is a general virulence strategy across several kingdoms of plant pathogens. There is also increasing evidence that plants have evolved specific defences against RNA-silencing suppression by pathogens, providing yet another illustration of the never-ending molecular arms race between plant pathogens and their hosts.

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