Si vis pacem para bellum: A prospective in silico analysis of miRNA-based plant defenses against fungal infections

André F. Gabriel, Marina C. Costa, Francisco Javier Enguita, Ana Lúcia Leitão

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Fungal pathogens are an important threat for plant crops, being responsible for important reductions of production yields and a consequent economic impact. Among the molecular mediators of fungal infections of plant crops, non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) have been described as relevant players either in the plant immune responses and mechanism of defense or in the colonization of plant tissues by fungi. Acting as a mechanism of defense, some plant small ncRNAs such as miRNAs and tasiRNAs can be secreted by cells and directed to target the transcriptome of pathogenic fungi, triggering an RNAi-like interference mechanism able to silence the expression of specific fungal genes. The detailed knowledge of this mechanism of defense against fungal pathogens could open new possibilities for the protection of human important crops. To infer putative functional relationships mediated by ncRNA communication, we performed a prospective analysis to determine potential plant miRNAs able to target the genome of fungal pathogens, which resulted in the description of enriched specific plant miRNA families and their putative fungal targets that could be further studied in the context of plant-fungi interactions. The expression profile of specific members of the enriched miRNAs families showed an infection-dependent behavior in laboratory models of infection. Plant miRNAs showed sequence complementarity with coding genes of their cognate fungal pathogens. Plant miRNAs could potentially target fungal genes belonging to functional families related to stress response, membrane architecture, vacuolar transport, membrane traffic, and anabolic processes. Families of specific infection-responsive miRNAs are included in the putative plant defense mechanism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110241
JournalPlant Science
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • Defense mechanism
  • Fungi
  • Host-pathogen interaction
  • Interkingdom communication
  • miRNAs
  • Plant pathogen

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