Natural host-induced gene silencing offers new opportunities to engineer disease resistance

Yingnan Hou, Wenbo Ma

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


RNA silencing is an essential gene-regulation mechanism in eukaryotic organisms. Guided by small RNAs (sRNAs) of 20–25 nt in length, RNA silencing broadly governs a wide range of biological processes. In addition to regulating endogenous gene expression and inhibiting viral infection, accumulating evidence suggests that sRNAs can also function as antimicrobial agents against nonviral pathogens and directly silence gene targets in invading pathogen cells. Here, we summarize current understanding of this host-induced gene silencing (HIGS) process as a defense mechanism during natural infection. Specific focuses will be on recent advancement in the sRNA executors of HIGS and their potential delivery mechanisms from the plant host to filamentous eukaryotic pathogens, including fungi and Phytophthora species. Implications of these new findings in the applications of HIGS as a tool for engineering disease resistance is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-117
Number of pages9
JournalTrends in Microbiology
Issue number2
Early online date9 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


  • extracellular vesicles
  • host-induced gene silencing
  • secondary siRNA
  • trans-species RNAi

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