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Abstract

Cell-to-cell and long-distance trafficking of RNA is a rapidly evolving frontier of integrative plant biology that broadly impacts studies on plant growth and development, spread of infectious agents and plant defense responses. The fundamental questions being pursued at the forefronts revolve around function, mechanism and evolution. In the present review, we will first use specific examples to illustrate the biological importance of cell-to-cell and long-distance trafficking of RNA. We then focus our discussion on research findings obtained using viroids that have advanced our understanding of the underlying mechanisms involved in RNA trafficking. We further use viroid examples to illustrate the great diversity of trafficking machinery evolved by plants, as well as the promise for new insights in the years ahead. Finally, we discuss the prospect of integrating findings from different experimental systems to achieve a systems-based understanding of RNA trafficking function, mechanism and evolution.