Silencing in sperm cells is directed by RNA movement from the surrounding nurse cell

Nat Plants. 2016 Mar 21;2:16030. doi: 10.1038/nplants.2016.30.


Plant small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) communicate from cell to cell and travel long distances through the vasculature. However, siRNA movement into germ cells has remained controversial, and has gained interest because the terminally differentiated pollen vegetative nurse cell surrounding the sperm cells undergoes a programmed heterochromatin decondensation and transcriptional reactivation of transposable elements (TEs). Transcription of TEs leads to their post-transcriptional degradation into siRNAs, and it has been proposed that the purpose of this TE reactivation is to generate and load TE siRNAs into the sperm cells. Here, we identify the molecular pathway of TE siRNA production in the pollen grain and demonstrate that siRNAs produced from pollen vegetative cell transcripts can silence TE reporters in the sperm cells. Our data demonstrates that TE siRNAs act non-cell-autonomously, inhibiting TE activity in the germ cells and potentially the next generation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Arabidopsis / physiology*
  • DNA Transposable Elements / genetics*
  • Gametogenesis, Plant / physiology*
  • Pollen / genetics*
  • RNA Interference / physiology*
  • RNA, Plant / genetics*
  • RNA, Plant / metabolism
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism


  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • RNA, Plant
  • RNA, Small Interfering