RNA ‘Information Warfare’ in Pathogenic and Mutualistic Interactions

Thomas Chaloner, Jan A.L. van Kan, Robert T. Grant-Downton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Regulatory non-coding RNAs are emerging as key players in host–pathogen interactions. Small RNAs such as microRNAs are implicated in regulating plant transcripts involved in immunity and defence. Surprisingly, RNAs with silencing properties can be translocated from plant hosts to various invading pathogens and pests. Small RNAs are now confirmed virulence factors, with the first report of fungal RNAs that travel to host cells and hijack post-transcriptional regulatory machinery to suppress host defence. Here, we argue that trans-organism movement of RNAs represents a common mechanism of control in diverse interactions between plants and other eukaryotes. We suggest that extracellular vesicles are the key to such RNA movement events. Plant pathosystems serve as excellent experimental models to dissect RNA ‘information warfare’ and other RNA-mediated interactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)738-748
JournalTrends in Plant Science
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • fungus
  • infection
  • non-coding RNA
  • pathogen
  • resistance


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