Prof. James Westwood (Virginia Tech, USA)
in: 'Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution': "Cuscuta campestris reveals roles for RNAs as signaling molecules in parasitic plant-host interactions"
Mit Prof. James Westwood (Virginia Tech, USA)
Abstract: Parasitic plants of the genus Cuscuta are especially interesting organisms. Not only do they rely entirely on their hosts for water and nutrients, but they form connections to host plants that allow the transfer of macromolecules such as RNAs and proteins between the two species. My laboratory has been studying the movement of RNAs, and a longstanding question has been whether these molecules are functional in the recipient organism. Recent results indicate that Cuscuta microRNAs suppress expression of host genes in ways that benefit the parasite, suggesting that they act as effectors in the interaction. We have also found that translocated Cuscuta messenger RNAs encode proteins that are also found in the host and that these proteins are able to affect host physiology. It appears that at least some of the parasite proteins are translated in host cells. Taken together, this work supports the concept of RNA functioning in signaling over long distances and between different species.