Beyond nutrients: Food-derived microRNAs provide cross-kingdom regulation



Food turns out to be not only the nutrient supplier for our body but also a carrier of regulatory information. Interestingly, a recent study made the discovery that some plant/food-derived microRNAs (miRNAs) accumulate in the serum of humans or plant-feeding animals, and regulate mammalian gene expression in a sequence-specific manner. The authors provided striking evidence that miRNAs could function as active signaling molecules to transport information across distinct species or even kingdoms. Although the mechanism of how miRNAs are shuttled between different organisms is still not well characterized, initial results point to the involvement of microvesicles and specific RNA-transporter-like proteins. These findings raise both speculation about the potential impact that plants may have on animal physiology at the molecular level, and an appealing possibility that food-derived miRNAs may offer us another means to deliver necessary nutrients or therapeutics to our bodies.