Veggie Tales

It’s flu season… for PLANTS?!?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Like us, plants catch viruses. Their home remedy? Plants use molecular scissors to break viruses into tiny pieces. These bits of genetic material are replicated, creating small interfering RNA’s — or siRNA’s. These act like homing missiles to guide the plant’s immune machinery to the invader. Problem solved? Not quite.

Plants make many siRNA’s, but few work because viruses have defenses too!

Enter Selma Gago-Zachert and colleagues from the Leibniz Institute in Germany. They infected tobacco cells with the tomato bushy stunt virus. Then they tested WHICH of the plant’s viral missiles killed the most viruses. The best performing siRNA’s  were then injected into tobacco leaves BEFORE infecting them.


One of the siRNA’s protected NINETY-NINE PERCENT of the plants from viral-symptoms, including wilting and death! Gago-Zachert hopes this technique can be developed to protect crops against critical viral diseases.

So this year, get a flu shot for you, and your house plants too!