Neil A. Smith,1 and
1CSIRO Division of Plant Industry, Clunies Ross Street, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia; 2Graduate School of Agriculture, Hokkaido University, Kita-ku kita 9, Nishi 9 Sapporo 060-8589, Japan
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Accepted 29 May 2012.
RNA silencing plays a critical role in plant resistance against viruses, with multiple silencing factors participating in antiviral defense. Both RNA and DNA viruses are targeted by the small RNA-directed RNA degradation pathway, with DNA viruses being also targeted by RNA-directed DNA methylation. To evade RNA silencing, plant viruses have evolved a variety of counter-defense mechanisms such as expressing RNA-silencing suppressors or adopting silencing-resistant RNA structures. This constant defense–counter defense arms race is likely to have played a major role in defining viral host specificity and in shaping viral and possibly host genomes. Recent studies have provided evidence that RNA silencing also plays a direct role in viral disease induction in plants, with viral RNA-silencing suppressors and viral siRNAs as potentially the dominant players in viral pathogenicity. However, questions remain as to whether RNA silencing is the principal mediator of viral pathogenicity or if other RNA-silencing-independent mechanisms also account for viral disease induction. RNA silencing has been exploited as a powerful tool for engineering virus resistance in plants as well as in animals. Further understanding of the role of RNA silencing in plant–virus interactions and viral symptom induction is likely to result in novel anti-viral strategies in both plants and animals.
© 2012 The American Phytopathological Society