Plants use RNA to communicate with neighbours

Plants use a variety of mechanisms to communicate with other organisms, including one another. Volatile compounds can signal flowering and attract pollinators, for instance, and mycorrhizal fungal networks can transmit warnings or transfer resources. Small RNAs are on that list of communication molecules, and new findings confirm their potential: according to a paper published October 14 in Nature Plants, the plant Arabidopsis thaliana secretes microRNAs (miRNAs) — a type of small, single-stranded RNAs — into its liquid growth medium. Nearby individuals then take up these RNAs, which alter their gene expression patterns by binding to messenger RNAs and preventing certain genes from being translated into proteins (a process known as RNA interference).

from Signs of the Times

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