Don't kill the messenger: Long-distance trafficking of mRNA molecules

Ziv Spiegelman, Guy Golan, Shmuel Wolf*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


The phloem sap contains numerous macromolecules such as proteins and RNAs, in addition to photoassimilates, amino acids and other small molecules. The transcription profile of messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules in the sieve tubes is unique and does not reflect the transcript profile in the neighboring companion cells. This discovery suggests tight regulation on cell-to-cell movement of mRNA molecules from the companion cells into the sieve tube. Heterografting experiments and RNA-detection methods have provided unequivocal evidence for the trafficking of several specific mRNA molecules between distant organs. Detection of various plant transcripts in their respective plant parasites further confirms this long-distance movement. The finding that several of these trafficked transcripts are involved in the control of developmental processes as well as responses to growth substances or environmental cues has led to a new paradigm that mRNA molecules act as non-cell-autonomous signaling agents operating in the vascular system. Trafficking of these molecules creates a communication network between distant organs that is required for coordinated development of the whole plant under adverse conditions. The generality of this concept, however, is still under debate, because the raison d'être for long-distance movement of mRNA is not clear. In this review we discuss the identity and potential function of phloem-sap mRNA molecules, the factors facilitating RNA transport, and the rationale for their action as long-distance signaling agents in the control of developmental processes.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalPlant Science
StatePublished - Dec 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Dr Orit Levius and Ms Naama Teboul for technical assistance. This work was supported by a United States-Israeli Binational Science Foundation grant ( BSF 2007052 ) and by the Chief Scientist, Israel Ministry of Agriculture ( 837-0076-10 ) to S.W. The paper is a contribution from the Uri Kinamon Laboratory. Z.S. and G.G. were supported by a scholarship from the Kinamon Foundation.


  • Development
  • Long-distance signaling
  • MRNA
  • Phloem transport
  • RNA binding proteins


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