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Department of Biological Sciences

Faculty and Staff Directory

Vicki Vance

Title: Professor Emeritus
Department: Biological Sciences
College of Arts and Sciences
Phone: 803-777-3179
Office: CLS, Room 601


The possibility that small RNAs ingested from plant-based foods could have biological effects in humans and other mammals is currently an issue of considerable interest. It has long been known that ingested RNA from food sources is taken up by the digestive system in nematodes and insects and can control the expression of genes in those organisms. A recent report has raised the interesting possibility that a similar phenomenon occurs in humans and other mammals. This work has generated excitement because it raises the possibility of bioengineering edible plants to produce therapeutic miRNAs that could then be delivered to affected tissues by ingestion. However, it has also generated controversy, and several groups have challenged the finding. We addressed this controversy in an experiment designed to both detect a therapeutic effect of ingested miRNAs and to demonstrate their uptake in a mouse model for colon cancer. Our results indicate that tumor suppressor miRNAs designed to mimic small RNAs produced in plants were taken up by the digestive tract of ApcMin/+ mice upon ingestion, as evidenced by their higher concentration in the miRNA-treated animals. Furthermore, the ingested miRNAs were functional, as evidenced by the reduction in tumor burden in the treated mice. These results support the original finding that endogenous plant miRNAs are taken up by the mammalian digestive tract and can function to target mammalian genes, raising the intriguing prospect of using edible plants engineered to produce mammalian tumor suppressor miRNAs as an effective, nontoxic, and inexpensive chemopreventive strategy in humans.


In press: Sizolwenkosi Mlotshwa, Gail J. Pruss, John L. MacArthur, Matthew W. Endres, Celestia Davis, Lorne J. Hofseth, Maria Marjorette Peña and Vicki Vance (2015). A Novel Chemopreventive Strategy Based on Therapeutic MicroRNAs Produced in Plants.

Vicki Vance (2014). RNAi Biotechnology: Pros and Cons for Crop Improvement. Phytopathology News 48: 40-42.

Amy Wahba Foreman, Gail J. Pruss, and Vicki Vance (2013). Plant-Virus Interaction: Defense and Counter-Defense. Invited review in: Molecular Plant Immunity  (Guido Sessa, editor) pp 169-185. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Bowman, L.H., Johnson, C., Pruss, G. and Vance, V. (2011). Phased Small RNAs in Rice. Invited reviewin: RNA Technologies, Non-Coding RNAs in Plants. (V.A. Erdmann and J. Barciszewski, eds) pp. 107-119.Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

Mlotshwa, S., Pruss, G.J., Gao, Z., Mgutshini, N., Li, J., Chen, X., Bowman, L.H. and Vance, V. (2010). Transcriptional silencing induced by Arabidopsis T-DNA mutants is associated with 35S promoter siRNAsand requires genes involved in siRNA-mediated chromatin silencing. Plant J. 64: 712-717.
Endres, M.W., Gregory, B.D., Gao, Z, Foreman, A.W., Mlotshwa, S, Ge, X, Pruss, G.J., Ecker, J.R., Bowman, L.H. and Vance, V. . 2010. Two plant viral suppressors of silencing require the ethylene-inducible host transcription factor RAV2 to block RNA silencing. PLoS Pathogens 6(1). e1000729.  
Zhang, X., Wan, G., Mlotshwa, S., Vance, V., Berger, F.G., Chen, H. and Lu, X (2010). Oncogenic Wip1 phosphatase is inhibited by miR-16 in the DNA damage signaling pathway. Cancer Research 70: 7176-7186.
Johnson, C., Kasprzewska, A., Sundaresan, V.*, Vance, V.* and Bowman, L.H.* (*Communicating authors). 2009. Clusters and superclusters of phased small RNAs in the developing inflorescence of rice. . Genome Research 19. 1429-1440.
Pruss, G.J., Nester, E. and Vance, V. . 2008. Infiltration with Agrobacterium tumifaciens induces host defense and development dependent responses in the infiltrated zone. Molecular Plant Microbe Interactions 21. 1528-1538.
Mlotshwa, S., Schauer, S., Smith, T. H., Mallory, A., Herr, J.M., Roth, B., Merchant, D., Ray, A., Bowman, L. and Vance, V.. 2005. Ectopic DICER-LIKE1 Expression in  P1/HC-Pro Arabidopsis Rescues Phenotypic Anomalies but not Defects in MicroRNA and Silencing Pathways.. Plant Cell 17. 2873-85.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.