Artificial small RNAs (art-sRNAs), such as artificial microRNAs (amiRNAs) and synthetic trans-acting small interfering RNAs (syn-tasiRNAs), are highly specific 21-nucleotide small RNAs designed to recognize and silence complementary target RNAs. Art-sRNAs are extensively used in gene function studies or for improving crops, particularly to protect plants against viruses. Typically, antiviral art-sRNAs are computationally designed to target one or multiple sites in viral RNAs with high specificity, and art-sRNA constructs are generated and introduced into plants that are subsequently challenged with the target virus(es). Numerous studies have reported the successful application of art-sRNAs to induce resistance against a large number of RNA and DNA viruses in model and crop species. However, the application of art-sRNAs as an antiviral tool has limitations, such as the difficulty to predict the efficacy of a particular art-sRNA or the emergence of virus variants with mutated target sites escaping to art-sRNA-mediated degradation. Here, we review the different classes, features, and uses of art-sRNA-based tools to induce antiviral resistance in plants. We also provide strategies for the rational design of antiviral art-sRNAs and discuss the latest advances in developing art-sRNA-based methodologies for enhanced resistance to plant viruses.
Keywords: RNA silencing; VSR; amiRNA; antiviral resistance; artificial small RNA; atasiRNA; plant virus; syn-tasiRNA; viroid.