Spray-induced gene silencing for disease control is dependent on the efficiency of pathogen RNA uptake

Plant Biotechnol J. 2021 Sep;19(9):1756-1768. doi: 10.1111/pbi.13589. Epub 2021 May 4.


Recent discoveries show that fungi can take up environmental RNA, which can then silence fungal genes through environmental RNA interference. This discovery prompted the development of Spray-Induced Gene Silencing (SIGS) for plant disease management. In this study, we aimed to determine the efficacy of SIGS across a variety of eukaryotic microbes. We first examined the efficiency of RNA uptake in multiple pathogenic and non-pathogenic fungi, and an oomycete pathogen. We observed efficient double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) uptake in the fungal plant pathogens Botrytis cinerea, Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, Rhizoctonia solani, Aspergillus niger and Verticillium dahliae, but no uptake in Colletotrichum gloeosporioides, and weak uptake in a beneficial fungus, Trichoderma virens. For the oomycete plant pathogen, Phytophthora infestans, RNA uptake was limited and varied across different cell types and developmental stages. Topical application of dsRNA targeting virulence-related genes in pathogens with high RNA uptake efficiency significantly inhibited plant disease symptoms, whereas the application of dsRNA in pathogens with low RNA uptake efficiency did not suppress infection. Our results have revealed that dsRNA uptake efficiencies vary across eukaryotic microbe species and cell types. The success of SIGS for plant disease management can largely be determined by the pathogen's RNA uptake efficiency.

Keywords: RNA interference; double-stranded RNA; small RNA; spray-induced gene silencing; uptake efficiency.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Ascomycota
  • Botrytis
  • Colletotrichum
  • Gene Silencing*
  • Plant Diseases
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Double-Stranded* / genetics
  • Rhizoctonia


  • RNA, Double-Stranded

Supplementary concepts

  • Botrytis cinerea
  • Colletotrichum gloeosporioides
  • Rhizoctonia solani
  • Sclerotinia sclerotiorum
  • Verticillium dahliae