Science China Life Sciences

, Volume 61, Issue 2, pp 138–147 | Cite as

microRNA-mediated R gene regulation: molecular scabbards for double-edged swords

  • Yingtian Deng
  • Minglei Liu
  • Xiaofei Li
  • Feng Li


Plant resistance (R) proteins are immune receptors that recognize pathogen effectors and trigger rapid defense responses, namely effector-triggered immunity. R protein-mediated pathogen resistance is usually race specific. During plant-pathogen coevolution, plant genomes accumulated large numbers of R genes. Even though plant R genes provide important natural resources for breeding disease-resistant crops, their presence in the plant genome comes at a cost. Misregulation of R genes leads to developmental defects, such as stunted growth and reduced fertility. In the past decade, many microRNAs (miRNAs) have been identified to target various R genes in plant genomes. miRNAs reduce R gene levels under normal conditions and allow induction of R gene expression under various stresses. For these reasons, we consider R genes to be double-edged “swords” and miRNAs as molecular “scabbards”. In the present review, we summarize the contributions and potential problems of these “swords” and discuss the features and production of the “scabbards”, as well as the mechanisms used to pull the “sword” from the “scabbard” when needed.


NLR innate immunity siRNA miRNA crop disease breeding 


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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (91440103, 31600984) and Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (2662014PY008).


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Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yingtian Deng
    • 1
  • Minglei Liu
    • 1
  • Xiaofei Li
    • 1
  • Feng Li
    • 1
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Horticultural Plant Biology (MOE), College of Horticulture and Forestry SciencesHuazhong Agricultural UniversityWuhanChina

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