, Volume 98, Issue 6, pp 473-492

Role of RNA interference in plant improvement

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Abstract

Research to alter crops for their better performance involving modern technology is underway in numerous plants, and achievements in transgenic plants are impacting crop improvements in unparalleled ways. Striking progress has been made using genetic engineering technology over the past two decades in manipulating genes from diverse and exotic sources, and inserting them into crop plants for inducing desirable characteristics. RNA interference (RNAi) has recently been identified as a natural mechanism for regulation of gene expression in all higher organisms from plants to humans and promises greater accuracy and precision to plant improvement. The expression of any gene can be down-regulated in a highly explicit manner exclusive of affecting the expression of any other gene by using RNAi technologies. Additional research in this field has been focused on a number of other areas including microRNAs, hairpin RNA, and promoter methylation. Manipulating new RNAi pathways, which generate small RNA molecules to amend gene expression in crops, can produce new quality traits and having better potentiality of protection against abiotic and biotic stresses. Nutritional improvement, change in morphology, or enhanced secondary metabolite synthesis are some of the other advantages of RNAi technology. In addition to its roles in regulating gene expression, RNAi is also used as a natural defense mechanism against molecular parasites such as jumping genes and viral genetic elements that affect genome stability. Even though much advancement has been made on the field of RNAi over the preceding few years, the full prospective of RNAi for crop improvement remains to be fully realized. The intricacy of RNAi pathway, the molecular machineries, and how it relates to plant development are still to be explained.

Communicated by Sven Thatje