In a paper published in the journal Science, researchers at the University of California, Riverside report how plants package and deliver the small RNAs, or sRNAs, they use to fight back against plant pathogens. The study focused on Botrytis cinerea, a fungus that causes a grey mold disease in almost all fruits, vegetables, and many flowers.
Article Abstract: Some pathogens and pests deliver small RNAs (sRNAs) into host cells to suppress host immunity. Conversely, hosts also transfer sRNAs into pathogens and pests to inhibit their virulence. Although sRNA trafficking has been observed in a wide variety of interactions, how sRNAs are transferred, especially from hosts to pathogens and pests, is still unknown. Here, we show that host Arabidopsis cells secrete exosome-like extracellular vesicles to deliver sRNAs into fungal pathogen Botrytis cinerea. These sRNA-containing vesicles accumulate at the infection sites and are taken up by the fungal cells. Transferred host sRNAs induce silencing of fungal genes critical for pathogenicity. Thus, Arabidopsis has adapted exosome-mediated cross-kingdom RNA interference as part of its immune responses during the evolutionary arms race with the pathogen.