Biogenesis of Interface-Induced MicroRNAs in parasitic plant Cuscuta campestris

The parasitic plant Dodders (Cuscuta spp.) are vampires of the plant world. Their “fangs”, or haustoria, bite through the host plant’s skin and suck out water and nutrients. At the haustorial interface, the site where the vampire and victim interact, we discovered that C. campestris delivers short strands of RNA, called microRNAs into the host and manipulates host genes. However, it is largely unknown how these interface-induced microRNAs are made. A majority of the interface-induced microRNAs contain a short sequence called the Upstream Sequence Element. This element is previously described to activate genes by recruiting the protein Shoot Redifferentiation 2 (SRD2). It is likely that dodder uses this same mechanism to produce the interface-induced microRNAs. Most microRNAs are processed by the protein Dicer-like 1 (DCL1). We speculate that DCL1 is also required for producing interface-induced microRNAs. To test this, we utilized a technique called RNA interference that can silence specific genes. The silencing signal was delivered into the parasite via a host plant called Arabidopsis thaliana. We successfully reduced parasite DCL1 by 40% within 2 weeks. We are preparing to measure interface-induced microRNAs accumulation upon decreased DCL1, as well as optimizing SRD2 repression. If making interface-induced microRNAs requires SRD2 or DCL1, we should observe a reduction of these miRNAs. These findings could explain how interface-induced miRNAs are made. By knowing this, we can interrupt their production. This opens the possibility to decline dodder parasitism - a vampire-free zone for our crops.

The purpose of the study is to understand how the Cuscuta-derived, interface-induced miRNAs are made, and how to shut down the production. This is important because there is no effective control over Cuscuta due to the lack of herbicide to kill parasitic plants without damaging the crop plants. The experiments successfully repressed parasitic genes that potentially producing these miRNAs. We are among the first to deliver RNA interference into Cuscuta using Arabidopsis thaliana, a plant with rapid life cycle. This allows us to test enormous parasitic genes every other month and boost the efficiency for Cuscuta research. If it turns out that interface-induced miRNAs production can be shut down, it could point to new ways to combat dodder infestation.



Work Title Biogenesis of Interface-Induced MicroRNAs in parasitic plant Cuscuta campestris
Open Access
  1. Ya Chi Nien
  2. Michael Axtell
  1. Parasitic plant
  2. Trans-species microRNA
License CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives)
Work Type Poster
Publication Date March 24, 2023
Deposited April 11, 2023




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Version 1

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  • Updated Publication Date, License Show Changes
    Publication Date
    • 2023-3-24
  • Updated Publication Date Show Changes
    Publication Date
    • 2023-3-24
    • 2023-03-24
  • Added Yachi_Nien_Graduate_exhibition_poster_compressed.pdf
  • Added Creator Ya Chi Nien
  • Added Creator Michael Axtell
  • Published
  • Updated Keyword, Subtitle Show Changes
    • Parasitic plant, trans-species microRNA
    • Parasitic plant, Trans-species microRNA
    • Statement of Importance