A virus-targeted plant receptor-like kinase promotes cell-to-cell spread of RNAi.

RNA interference (RNAi) in plants can move from cell to cell, allowing for systemic spread of an antiviral immune response. How this cell-to-cell spread of silencing is regulated is currently unknown. Here, we describe that the C4 protein from Tomato yellow leaf curl virus can inhibit the intercellular spread of RNAi. Using this viral protein as a probe, we have identified the receptor-like kinase (RLK) BARELY ANY MERISTEM 1 (BAM1) as a positive regulator of the cell-to-cell movement of RNAi, and determined that BAM1 and its closest homolog, BAM2, play a redundant role in this process. C4 interacts with the intracellular domain of BAM1 and BAM2 at the plasma membrane and plasmodesmata, the cytoplasmic connections between plant cells, interfering with the function of these RLKs in the cell-to-cell spread of RNAi. Our results identify BAM1 as an element required for the cell-to-cell spread of RNAi and highlight that signaling components have been coopted to play multiple functions in plants.