Date of this Version
Gene silencing is a conserved mechanism in eukaryotes that dynamically regulates gene expression. In plants, gene silencing is critical for development and for maintenance of genome integrity. Additionally, it is a critical component of antiviral defence in plants, nematodes, insects, and fungi. To overcome gene silencing, viruses encode effectors that suppress gene silencing. A growing body of evidence shows that gene silencing and suppression of silencing are also used by plants during their interaction with nonviral pathogens such as fungi, oomycetes, and bacteria. Plant–pathogen interactions involve trans-kingdom movement of small RNAs into the pathogens to alter the function of genes required for their development and virulence. In turn, plant-associated pathogenic and nonpathogenic microbes also produce small RNAs that move trans-kingdom into host plants to disrupt pathogen defence through silencing of plant genes. The mechanisms by which these small RNAs move from the microbe to the plant remain poorly understood. In this review, we examine the roles of trans-kingdom small RNAs and silencing suppressors produced by nonviral microbes in inducing and suppressing gene silencing in plants. The emerging model is that gene silencing and suppression of silencing play critical roles in the interactions between plants and their associated nonviral microbes.