New research reveals an essential step in scientists' quest to create targeted, more eco-friendly fungicides that protect food crops.
Scientists have known for decades that biological cells manufacture tiny, round structures called extracellular vesicles. However, their pivotal roles in communication between invading microorganisms and their hosts were recognized only recently.
UC Riverside geneticist Hailing Jin and her team found plants use these vesicles to launch RNA molecules at fungal invaders, suppressing the genes that make the fungi dangerous.
"These vesicles shuttle small RNAs between cells, like tiny Trojan horses with weapons hidden inside," said Jin, a professor of genetics and the Cy Mouradick Chair in the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology. "They can silence pathogenic fungal gene expression."