RNA translocation between parasitic plants and their hosts

Pest Manag Sci. 2009 May;65(5):533-9. doi: 10.1002/ps.1727.


Recent research indicates that RNA translocation occurs between certain parasitic plant species and their hosts. The movement of at least 27 mRNAs has been demonstrated between hosts and Cuscuta pentagona Engelm., with the largest proportion of these being regulatory genes. Movement of RNAi signals has been documented from hosts to the parasites Triphysaria versicolor (Frisch & CA Mey) and Orobanche aegyptiaca (Pers.), demonstrating that the regulation of genes in one species can be influenced by transfer of RNA signals through a parasitic association. This review considers the implications of these findings in light of present understanding of host-parasite connections and the growing body of evidence that RNAs are able to act as signal molecules that convey regulatory information in a cell- and tissue-specific manner. Together, this suggests that parasitic plants can exchange RNAs with their hosts, and that this may be part of the coordinated growth and development that occurs during the process of parasitism. This phenomenon offers promise for new insights into parasitic plants, and new opportunities for the control of parasitic weeds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cuscuta / genetics
  • Cuscuta / metabolism*
  • Host-Parasite Interactions*
  • Plant Diseases / genetics
  • Plant Diseases / parasitology*
  • Plants / genetics
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • RNA Transport*
  • RNA, Plant / genetics
  • RNA, Plant / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction


  • RNA, Plant