The poly(A) tail blocks RDR6 from converting self mRNAs into substrates for gene silencing.

It remains unclear how post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS) in plants discriminates aberrant RNAs from canonical messenger RNAs (mRNAs). The key step of plant PTGS is the conversion of aberrant RNAs into double-stranded RNAs by RNA-DEPENDENT RNA POLYMERASE6 (RDR6). Here, we show that RDR6 itself selects aberrant poly(A)-less mRNAs over canonical polyadenylated mRNAs as templates at the initiation step of complementary strand synthesis. This mechanism can be viewed as an innate safeguard against 'self-attack' by PTGS.