Small RNAs and transposon silencing in plants


  • Hidetaka Ito

    Corresponding author
    1. Faculty of Science, Hokkaido University, Kita 10 Nishi8, Kita-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0810
    2. Japan Science and Technology Agency, PRESTO 4-1-8 Honcho, Kawaguchi, Saitama 332-0012, Japan
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Transposons are highly conserved in plants and have created a symbiotic relationship with the host genome. An important factor of the successful communication between transposons and host plants is epigenetic modifications including DNA methylation and the modifications of the histone tail. In plants, small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) are responsible for RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM) that suppresses transposon activities. Although most transposons are silent in their host plants, certain genomic shocks, such as an environmental stress or a hybridization event, might trigger transposon activation. Further, since transposons can affect the regulation mechanisms of host genes, it is possible that transposons have co-evolved as an important mechanism for plant development and adaptation. Recent new findings reveal that siRNAs control not only transcriptional activation, but also suppress transgenerational transposition of mobile elements making siRNAs critically important towards maintaining genome stability. Together these data suggest host-mediated siRNA regulation of transposons appears to have been adapted for controlling essential systems of plant development, morphogenesis, and reproduction.