RNA silencing has become a major focus of molecular biology and biomedical research around the world. This is highlighted by a simple PubMed search for ‘‘RNA silencing,’’ which retrieves almost 9,000 articles. Interest in gene silencing-related mechanisms stemmed from the early 1990s, when this phenomenon was first noted as a surprise observation by plant scientists during the course of plant transformation experiments, in which the introduction of a transgene into the genome led to the silencing of both the transgene and homologous endogenes. From these initial studies, plant biologists have continued to generate a wealth of information into not only gene silencing mechanisms but also the complexity of these biological pathways as well as revealing their multilevel interactions with one another. The plant biology community has also made significant advancements in exploiting RNA silencing as a powerful tool for gene function studies and crop improvements.
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