Gene Knockdown in Parasitic Plant Cuscuta campestris Using Two-Host System

Plant Biology

Yachi Nien, Penn State University

November 13, 2023 @ 12:10 pm to 01:10 pm

108 Wartik Laboratory
University Park

Preview image for Gene Knockdown in Parasitic Plant Cuscuta campestris Using Two-Host System

Research Summary:

The parasitic plant Dodders (Cuscuta spp.) are vampires of the plant world. Their “fangs”, or haustoria, bite through the host plant’s skin and suck out water and nutrients. At the haustorial interface, we discovered that C. campestris delivers short strands of RNA, called microRNAs into the host and manipulates host genes. However, it is largely unknown how these interface-induced microRNAs are made. MicroRNAs originate from a long precursor and need to be cut into their mature form by a protein called Dicer-like 1 (DCL1). We speculate that DCL1 is required for producing interface-induced microRNAs. To test this, we delivered silencing signal against Cuscuta DCL1 via a host plant. The signal successfully reduced parasite DCL1 by 40% within 2 weeks. We are preparing to measure interface-induced microRNAs accumulation upon decreased DCL1. If making interface-induced microRNAs requires DCL1, we should observe a reduction of these microRNAs. These findings could explain how interface-induced microRNAs are made. By knowing this, we can interrupt their production. This opens the possibility to decline dodder parasitism - a vampire-free zone for our crops.

About the Speaker:

Yachi Nien is a biologist who study microRNAs in diverse non-model plants. She worked with Gloxinia, an ornamental plant with bell-shaped flower. She discovered that microRNAs are essential in establishing floral asymmetry while completing her master’s degree at National Taiwan University and Academia Sinica. Yachi continues pursuing her interest in plant microRNAs at the Penn State University where her research addresses how a parasitic plant Cuscuta campestris accumulates microRNAs at the parasite-host interface. You can read more about her group at Axtell Lab at Penn State.


Michael Axtell