Inhaltspezifische Aktionen

Summary of the Project

Strategies of the RU5116


Food security and healthy food for 11 billion people in 2100 is one of the major challenges of this century. According to the scientific literature, there is no other option than to increase the global yield efficiency and reduce the yield gap to guarantee global food security – given that further land increase for agriculture is not an acceptable alternative. To realize these agricultural goals new understanding in the mechanisms of plant diseases/immunity and new technology discoveries in crop protection are required. Hence, it is the major aim of the RU5116 consortium to create a vibrant, dynamic and internationally leading collaborative consortium with the common goal of developing a mechanistic understanding of cross kingdom RNA interference (ckRNAi) between plant hosts and their interacting microbes. Our central hypothesis is that sRNAs (RNA effectors) have an evolutionarily conserved key role in the establishment and development of pathogenic and mutualistic plant-microbe interactions, and therefore have a high potential for crop plant improvement and more sustainable production. 


The overall strategic objectives of our initiative are:

  • to elucidate the principles and components of ckRNAi in host-microbe interactions
  • to enable the development of novel strategies for crop plant protection and yield
  • to build research capacity in RNA biology together with training the next generation of students in this important research area.

Our specific scientific aims are:

  • to comparatively reveal the mechanistic role of sRNAs in ckRNAi and their delivery pathways in a variety of agronomically relevant plant-microbe interactions,
  • to comparatively assess the molecular factors required for cross-kingdom transfer of RNAs along the routes between the plant and the microbe in these interactions
  • to develop strategies for improving the use of sRNA and dsRNA in controlling plant diseases.


Our consortium unites experts with advanced knowledge and key publications in the field of noncoding RNAs, RNA transport, RNA-protein interaction, ckRNAi, vesicle biology, and RNA-based plant protection. Past and recent breakthrough findings in plant ckRNAi were initialized to a great part by knowledge from animal research, including the discovery of RNAi and the functional role of EV-mediated RNA transfer from parasites to mammalian cells. Both knowledge and methods established in the mammalian system will greatly boost our research on plant-microbe interactions.

Key characteristics of our consortium are the collaborative work on genetically tractable crops (barley, maize, rapeseed, tomato, tobacco, olive) along with genetic models Brachypodium distachyon (Bd) and Arabidopsis thaliana (Ath). The biological systems were selected by the following criteria: (a) PI’s long-term expertise on the host-microbe system, (b) ideally genetic tractability of both interaction partners, (c) agronomic significance, and (d) broad representation of microbial life styles, to compare biotrophic and necrotrophic pathogens as well as beneficial fungi. Based on these tools we will answer whether plant sRNA candidates operate on a broad spectrum of fungi (life-style dependent vs. independent), including potential trade-offs on interactions with beneficial microbes. Mutualistic symbioses and beneficial microbes are a key factor in agriculture and especially in plant production. Hence, elucidating the molecular mechanisms of mutualism in host-microbe interaction and beneficial microbes is essential for more sustainable plant production. We believe that this selection strategy is a fundamental requirement for the agronomic approach of our research program.