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A calmodulin-binding transcription factor links calcium signaling to antiviral RNAi defense in plants
Cell Host & Microbe  (IF21.023),  Pub Date : 2021-08-04, DOI: 10.1016/j.chom.2021.07.003
Yunjing Wang, Qian Gong, Yuyao Wu, Fan Huang, Asigul Ismayil, Danfeng Zhang, Huangai Li, Hanqing Gu, Márta Ludman, Károly Fátyol, Yijun Qi, Keiko Yoshioka, Linda Hanley-Bowdoin, Yiguo Hong, Yule Liu

RNA interference (RNAi) is an across-kingdom gene regulatory and defense mechanism. However, little is known about how organisms sense initial cues to mobilize RNAi. Here, we show that wounding to Nicotiana benthamiana cells during virus intrusion activates RNAi-related gene expression through calcium signaling. A rapid wound-induced elevation in calcium fluxes triggers calmodulin-dependent activation of calmodulin-binding transcription activator-3 (CAMTA3), which activates RNA-dependent RNA polymerase-6 and Bifunctional nuclease-2 (BN2) transcription. BN2 stabilizes mRNAs encoding key components of RNAi machinery, notably AGONAUTE1/2 and DICER-LIKE1, by degrading their cognate microRNAs. Consequently, multiple RNAi genes are primed for combating virus invasion. Calmodulin-, CAMTA3-, or BN2-knockdown/knockout plants show increased susceptibility to geminivirus, cucumovirus, and potyvirus. Notably, Geminivirus V2 protein can disrupt the calmodulin-CAMTA3 interaction to counteract RNAi defense. These findings link Ca2+ signaling to RNAi and reveal versatility of host antiviral defense and viral counter-defense.