Plant & Soil Sciences

“RNA exchange between the parasitic plant Cuscuta and its hosts: A new form of plant communication?”

Dr. Jim Westwood
Virginia Tech

Cuscuta pentagona (lespedeza dodder) is an obligate stem parasitic plant that forms symplastic connections to its host in order to gain resources for growth.  These connections are unusually open, and Cuscuta spp. have long been known to transmit viruses between plants. We have characterized the movement of mRNAs from hosts to parasites, recently using a combination of transcriptomics and quantitative RT-PCR approaches to further investigate this phenomenon. Our results indicate that a large number of mRNAs move in a bidirectional manner between hosts and the parasite.  Considering that RNAs (mRNAs and small RNAs) are systemically mobile in plants and have shown capacity to influence gene expression and plant development, it is interesting to speculate on the function of RNA trafficking in Cuscuta-host systems.  I will discuss the possibility that RNA exchange comprises a novel form of plant communication in Cuscuta interactions.


132 Townsend Hall
531 South College Avenue
Newark, DE 19716

Hosting Organization:
Plant & Soil Sciences
University of Delaware

October 2, 2015

12:20 p.m. - 1:15 p.m.