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Information contained within genes is translated into proteins with the help of an intermediate molecule called messenger RNA. In plants, messenger RNA production can be prevented in a process known as transcriptional silencing. Messenger RNA can also be degraded after its creation, known as posttranscriptional gene silencing. Both processes are used in plant viral defence mechanisms and require production of small RNA molecules. Jan studies these processes in petunias by targeting genes or messenger RNAs involved in the coloration of flowers. If their activity is blocked, the flowers become white or display a characteristic pattern of pigmented and white sectors.