Small RNA regulators of plant-hemipteran interactions: Micromanagers with versatile roles

Sampurna Sattar, Gary A. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Non-coding small RNAs (sRNAs) in plants have important roles in regulating biological processes, including development, reproduction, and stress responses. Recent research indicates significant roles for sRNA-mediated gene silencing during plant-hemipteran interactions that involve all three of these biological processes. Plant responses to hemipteran feeding are determined by changes in the host transcriptome that appear to be fine-tuned by sRNAs. The role of sRNA in plant defense responses is complex. Different forms of sRNAs, with specific modes of action, regulate changes in the host transcriptome primarily through post-transcriptional gene silencing and occasionally through translational repression. Plant genetic resistance against hemipterans provides a model to explore the regulatory roles of sRNAs in plant defense. Aphid-induced sRNA expression in resistance genotypes delivers a new paradigm in understanding the regulation of R gene-mediated resistance in host plants. Unique sRNA profiles, including changes in sRNA biogenesis and expression can also provide insights into susceptibility to insect herbivores. Activation of phytohormone-mediated defense responses against insect herbivory is another hallmark of this interaction, and recent studies have shown that regulation of phytohormone signaling is under the control of sRNAs. Hemipterans feeding on resistant plants also show changes in insect sRNA profiles, possibly influencing insect development and reproduction. Changes in insect traits such as fecundity, host range, and resistance to insecticides are impacted by sRNAs and can directly contribute to the success of certain insect biotypes. In addition to causing direct damage to the host plant, hemipteran insects are often vectors of viral pathogens. Insect anti-viral RNAi machinery is activated to limit virus accumulation, suggesting a role in insect immunity. Virus-derived long sRNAs strongly resemble insect piRNAs, leading to the speculation that the piRNA pathway is induced in response to viral infection. Evidence for robust insect RNAi machinery in several hemipteran species is of immense interest and is being actively pursued as a possible tool for insect control. RNAi-induced gene silencing following uptake of exogenous dsRNA was successfully demonstrated in several hemipterans and the presence of sid-1 like genes support the concept of a systemic response in some species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1241
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
Issue numberAUG2016
StatePublished - Aug 30 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Plant Science


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