An RNA world (Profile of David Baulcombe)

Annual Reviews editions typically start with a brief autobiographical essay by a noted scientist. The 2023 edition of Annual Reviews in Plant Biology includes a profile of David Baulcombe, the well-known scientist whose work was foundational in revealing the roles of small RNAs in gene regulation and viral suppression. Baulcombe started his PhD in 1973, and his narrative reads like a history of the ideas and methods that shaped the past 50 years of plant molecular biology, particularly the growing recognition of its RNA world. Throughout the article, Baulcombe champions both basic and applied plant research, discussing the need for policies that support “sustainable intensification” in agriculture (appreciating its nuances), and seeking greater recognition that plants are excellent models for basic biology (suggesting that this message “should be shouted for the rooftops”). His article concludes with a closer look at the dance between host and pathogens, as well as the contributions of transposons in plant evolution. Throughout, he reveals his deep understanding of the important questions of our discipline, recognizes the contributions of his mentors and proteges to these findings, and demonstrates why he is widely perceived as one of the true stars of plant science. (Summary by Mary Williams @PlantTeaching) Annu. Rev. Plant Biol. 10.1146/annurev-arplant-070622-021021