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1.  High-Throughput Sequencing of RNA Silencing-Associated Small RNAs in Olive (Olea europaea L.) 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e27916.
Small RNAs (sRNAs) of 20 to 25 nucleotides (nt) in length maintain genome integrity and control gene expression in a multitude of developmental and physiological processes. Despite RNA silencing has been primarily studied in model plants, the advent of high-throughput sequencing technologies has enabled profiling of the sRNA component of more than 40 plant species. Here, we used deep sequencing and molecular methods to report the first inventory of sRNAs in olive (Olea europaea L.). sRNA libraries prepared from juvenile and adult shoots revealed that the 24-nt class dominates the sRNA transcriptome and atypically accumulates to levels never seen in other plant species, suggesting an active role of heterochromatin silencing in the maintenance and integrity of its large genome. A total of 18 known miRNA families were identified in the libraries. Also, 5 other sRNAs derived from potential hairpin-like precursors remain as plausible miRNA candidates. RNA blots confirmed miRNA expression and suggested tissue- and/or developmental-specific expression patterns. Target mRNAs of conserved miRNAs were computationally predicted among the olive cDNA collection and experimentally validated through endonucleolytic cleavage assays. Finally, we use expression data to uncover genetic components of the miR156, miR172 and miR390/TAS3-derived trans-acting small interfering RNA (tasiRNA) regulatory nodes, suggesting that these interactive networks controlling developmental transitions are fully operational in olive.
PMCID: PMC3225373  PMID: 22140484
2.  Global small RNA analysis in fast-growing Arabidopsis thaliana with elevated concentrations of ATP and sugars 
BMC Genomics  2014;15:116.
In higher eukaryotes, small RNAs play a role in regulating gene expression. Overexpression (OE) lines of Arabidopsis thaliana purple acid phosphatase 2 (AtPAP2) were shown to grow faster and exhibit higher ATP and sugar contents. Leaf microarray studies showed that many genes involved in microRNAs (miRNAs) and trans-acting siRNAs (tasiRNAs) biogenesis were significantly changed in the fast-growing lines. In this study, the sRNA profiles of the leaf and the root of 20-day-old plants were sequenced and the impacts of high energy status on sRNA expression were analyzed.
9-13 million reads from each library were mapped to genome. miRNAs, tasiRNAs and natural antisense transcripts-generated small interfering RNAs (natsiRNAs) were identified and compared between libraries. In the leaf of OE lines, 15 known miRNAs increased in abundance and 9 miRNAs decreased in abundance, whereas in the root of OE lines, 2 known miRNAs increased in abundance and 9 miRNAs decreased in abundance. miRNAs with increased abundance in the leaf and root samples of both OE lines (miR158b and miR172a/b) were predicted to target mRNAs coding for Dof zinc finger protein and Apetala 2 (AP2) proteins, respectively. Furthermore, a significant change in the miR173-tasiRNAs-PPR/TPR network was observed in the leaves of both OE lines.
In this study, the impact of high energy content on the sRNA profiles of Arabidopsis is reported. While the abundance of many stress-induced miRNAs is unaltered, the abundance of some miRNAs related to plant growth and development (miR172 and miR319) is elevated in the fast-growing lines. An induction of miR173-tasiRNAs-PPR/TPR network was also observed in the OE lines. In contrast, only few cis- and trans-natsiRNAs are altered in the fast-growing lines.
PMCID: PMC3925372  PMID: 24507710
Chloroplasts; Mitochondria; miRNAs; MORF; PPR; tasiRNAs and natsiRNAs
3.  Characterization of the small RNA component of leaves and fruits from four different cucurbit species 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:329.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of non-coding small RNAs involved in post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression critical for plant growth and development, stress responses and other diverse biological processes in plants. The Cucurbitaceae or cucurbit family represents some of economically important species, particularly those with edible and medicinal fruits. Genomic tools for the molecular analysis of members of this family are just emerging. Partial draft genome sequence became available recently for cucumber and watermelon facilitating investigation of the small RNA component of the transcriptomes in cucurbits.
We generated four small RNA libraries from bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria), Cucurbita moschata, Cucurbita pepo, and, watermelon (Citrullus lanatus var. lanatus) in order to identify conserved and novel lineage specific miRNAs in these cucurbits. Deep sequencing of small RNA libraries from these species resulted in 1,597,263, 532,948, 601,388, and 493,384 unique sRNA reads from bottle gourd, moschata, pepo and watermelon, respectively. Sequence analysis of these four libraries resulted in identification of 21 miRNA families that are highly conserved and 8 miRNA families that are moderately conserved in diverse dicots. We also identified 4 putative novel miRNAs in these plant species. Furthermore, the tasiRNAs were identified and their biogenesis was determined in these cucurbits. Small RNA blot analysis or q-PCR analyses of leaf and fruit tissues of these cucurbits showed differential expression of several conserved miRNAs. Interestingly, the abundance of several miRNAs in leaves and fruits of closely related C. moschata and C. pepo was also distinctly different. Target genes for the most conserved miRNAs are also predicted.
High-throughput sequencing of small RNA libraries from four cucurbit species has provided a glimpse of small RNA component in their transcriptomes. The analysis also showed considerable variation within four cucurbit species with regards to expression of individual miRNAs.
PMCID: PMC3431224  PMID: 22823569
4.  Genome-wide analysis of small RNAs reveals eight fiber elongation-related and 257 novel microRNAs in elongating cotton fiber cells 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:629.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) and other types of small regulatory RNAs play critical roles in the regulation of gene expression at the post-transcriptional level in plants. Cotton is one of the most economically important crops, but little is known about the roles of miRNAs during cotton fiber elongation.
Here, we combined high-throughput sequencing with computational analysis to identify small RNAs (sRNAs) related to cotton fiber elongation in Gossypium hirsutum L. (G. hirsutum). The sequence analysis confirmed the expression of 79 known miRNA families in elongating fiber cells and identified 257 novel miRNAs, primarily derived from corresponding specific loci in the Gossypium raimondii Ulbr. (G. raimondii) genome. Furthermore, a comparison of the miRNAomes revealed that 46 miRNA families were differentially expressed throughout the elongation period. Importantly, the predicted and experimentally validated targets of eight miRNAs were associated with fiber elongation, with obvious functional relationships with calcium and auxin signal transduction, fatty acid metabolism, anthocyanin synthesis and the xylem tissue differentiation. Moreover, one tasiRNA was also identified, and its target, ARF4, was experimentally validated in vivo.
This study not only facilitated the discovery of 257 novel low-abundance miRNAs in elongating cotton fiber cells but also revealed a potential regulatory network of nine sRNAs important for fiber elongation. The identification and characterization of miRNAs in elongating cotton fiber cells might promote the further study of fiber miRNA regulation mechanisms and provide insight into the importance of miRNAs in cotton.
PMCID: PMC3849097  PMID: 24044642
Cotton; Comparative miRNAome analysis; Fiber cell elongation; High-throughput sequencing; miRNAs; tasiRNA
5.  Endogenous TasiRNAs Mediate Non-Cell Autonomous Effects on Gene Regulation in Arabidopsis thaliana 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(6):e5980.
Different classes of small RNAs (sRNAs) refine the expression of numerous genes in higher eukaryotes by directing protein partners to complementary nucleic acids, where they mediate gene silencing. Plants encode a unique class of sRNAs, called trans-acting small interfering RNAs (tasiRNAs), which post-transcriptionally regulate protein-coding transcripts, as do microRNAs (miRNAs), and both sRNA classes control development through their targets. TasiRNA biogenesis requires multiple components of the siRNA pathway and also miRNAs. But while 21mer siRNAs originating from transgenes can mediate silencing across several cell layers, miRNA action seems spatially restricted to the producing or closely surrounding cells.
Principal Findings
We have previously described the isolation of a genetrap reporter line for TAS3a, the major locus producing AUXIN RESPONS FACTOR (ARF)-regulating tasiRNAs in the Arabidopsis shoot. Its activity is limited to the adaxial (upper) side of leaf primordia, thus spatially isolated from ARF-activities, which are located in the abaxial (lower) side. We show here by in situ hybridization and reporter fusions that the silencing activities of ARF-regulating tasiRNAs are indeed manifested non-cell autonomously to spatially control ARF activities.
Endogenous tasiRNAs are thus mediators of a mobile developmental signal and might provide effective gene silencing at a distance beyond the reach of most miRNAs.
PMCID: PMC2694355  PMID: 19543387
6.  Comparative analysis of non-autonomous effects of tasiRNAs and miRNAs in Arabidopsis thaliana 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;39(7):2880-2889.
In plants, small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) can trigger a silencing signal that may spread within a tissue to adjacent cells or even systemically to other organs. Movement of the signal is initially limited to a few cells, but in some cases the signal can be amplified and travel over larger distances. How far silencing initiated by other classes of plant small RNAs (sRNAs) than siRNAs can extend has been less clear. Using a system based on the silencing of the CH42 gene, we have tracked the mobility of silencing signals initiated in phloem companion cells by artificial microRNAs (miRNA) and trans-acting siRNA (tasiRNA) that have the same primary sequence. In this system, both the ta-siRNA and the miRNA act at a distance. Non-autonomous effects of the miRNA can be triggered by several different miRNA precursors deployed as backbones. While the tasiRNA also acts non-autonomously, it has a much greater range than the miRNA or hairpin-derived siRNAs directed against CH42, indicating that biogenesis can determine the non-autonomous effects of sRNAs. In agreement with this hypothesis, the silencing signals initiated by different sRNAs differ in their genetic requirements.
PMCID: PMC3074149  PMID: 21134910
7.  Differential expression of microRNAs and other small RNAs in barley between water and drought conditions 
Plant Biotechnology Journal  2014;13(1):2-13.
Drought is a major constraint to crop production, and microRNAs (miRNAs) play an important role in plant drought tolerance. Analysis of miRNAs and other classes of small RNAs (sRNAs) in barley grown under water and drought conditions reveals that drought selectively regulates expression of miRNAs and other classes of sRNAs. Low-expressed miRNAs and all repeat-associated siRNAs (rasiRNAs) tended towards down-regulation, while tRNA-derived sRNAs (tsRNAs) had the tendency to be up-regulated, under drought. Antisense sRNAs (putative siRNAs) did not have such a tendency under drought. In drought-tolerant transgenic barley overexpressing DREB transcription factor, most of the low-expressed miRNAs were also down-regulated. In contrast, tsRNAs, rasiRNAs and other classes of sRNAs were not consistently expressed between the drought-treated and transgenic plants. The differential expression of miRNAs and siRNAs was further confirmed by Northern hybridization and quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR). Targets of the drought-regulated miRNAs and siRNAs were predicted, identified by degradome libraries and confirmed by qRT-PCR. Their functions are diverse, but most are involved in transcriptional regulation. Our data provide insight into the expression profiles of miRNAs and other sRNAs, and their relationship under drought, thereby helping understand how miRNAs and sRNAs respond to drought stress in cereal crops.
PMCID: PMC4309496  PMID: 24975557
barley; drought; microRNA; small RNA; differential expression
8.  Analysis of the melon (Cucumis melo) small RNAome by high-throughput pyrosequencing 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:393.
Melon (Cucumis melo L.) is a commercially important fruit crop that is cultivated worldwide. The melon research community has recently benefited from the determination of a complete draft genome sequence and the development of associated genomic tools, which have allowed us to focus on small RNAs (sRNAs). These are short, non-coding RNAs 21-24 nucleotides in length with diverse physiological roles. In plants, they regulate gene expression and heterochromatin assembly, and control protection against virus infection. Much remains to be learned about the role of sRNAs in melon.
We constructed 10 sRNA libraries from two stages of developing ovaries, fruits and photosynthetic cotyledons infected with viruses, and carried out high-throughput pyrosequencing. We catalogued and analysed the melon sRNAs, resulting in the identification of 26 known miRNA families (many conserved with other species), the prediction of 84 melon-specific miRNA candidates, the identification of trans-acting siRNAs, and the identification of chloroplast, mitochondrion and transposon-derived sRNAs. In silico analysis revealed more than 400 potential targets for the conserved and novel miRNAs.
We have discovered and analysed a large number of conserved and melon-specific sRNAs, including miRNAs and their potential target genes. This provides insight into the composition and function of the melon small RNAome, and paves the way towards an understanding of sRNA-mediated processes that regulate melon fruit development and melon-virus interactions.
PMCID: PMC3163571  PMID: 21812964
9.  Sex specific expression and distribution of small RNAs in papaya 
BMC Genomics  2014;15:20.
Regulatory function of small non-coding RNAs (sRNA) in response to environmental and developmental cues has been established. Additionally, sRNA, also plays an important role in maintaining the heterochromatin and centromere structures of the chromosome. Papaya, a trioecious species with recently evolved sex chromosomes, has emerged as an excellent model system to study sex determination and sex chromosome evolution in plants. However, role of small RNA in papaya sex determination is yet to be explored.
We analyzed the high throughput sRNAs reads in the Illumina libraries prepared from male, female, and hermaphrodite flowers of papaya. Using the sRNA reads, we identified 29 miRNAs that were not previously reported from papaya. Including this and two previous studies, a total of 90 miRNAs has been identified in papaya. We analyzed the expression of these miRNAs in each sex types. A total of 65 miRNAs, including 31 conserved and 34 novel mirNA, were detected in at least one library. Fourteen of the 65 miRNAs were differentially expressed among different sex types. Most of the miRNA expressed higher in male flowers were related to the auxin signaling pathways, whereas the miRNAs expressed higher in female flowers were the potential regulators of the apical meristem identity genes. Aligning the sRNA reads identified the sRNA hotspots adjacent to the gaps of the X and Y chromosomes. The X and Y chromosomes sRNA hotspots has a 7.8 and 4.4 folds higher expression of sRNA, respectively, relative to the chromosome wide average. Approximately 75% of the reads aligned to the X chromosome hotspot was identical to that of the Y chromosome hotspot.
By analyzing the large-scale sRNA sequences from three sex types, we identified the sRNA hotspots flanking the gaps of papaya X, Y, and Yh chromosome. The sRNAs expression patterns in these regions were reminiscent of the pericentromeric region indicating that the only remaining gap in each of these chromosomes is likely the centromere. We also identified 14 differentially expressed miRNAs in male, female and hermaphrodite flowers of papaya. Our results provide valuable information toward understanding the papaya sex determination.
PMCID: PMC3916515  PMID: 24410969
Carica papaya; Centromere; miRNA; siRNA; Sex chromosome; Sex determination
10.  Deciphering Small Noncoding RNAs during the Transition from Dormant Embryo to Germinated Embryo in Larches (Larix leptolepis) 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e81452.
Small RNAs (sRNAs), as a key component of molecular biology, play essential roles in plant development, hormone signaling, and stress response. However, little is known about the relationships among sRNAs, hormone signaling, and dormancy regulation in gymnosperm embryos. To investigate the roles of sRNAs in embryo dormancy maintenance and release in Larix leptolepis, we deciphered the endogenous “sRNAome” in dormant and germinated embryos. High-throughput sequencing of sRNA libraries showed that dormant embryos exhibited a length bias toward 24-nt while germinated embryos showed a bias toward 21-nt lengths. This might be associated with distinct levels of RNA-dependent RNA polymerase2 (RDR2) and/or RDR6, which is regulated by hormones. Proportions of miRNAs to nonredundant and redundant sRNAs were higher in germinated embryos than in dormant embryos, while the ratio of unknown sRNAs was higher in dormant embryos than in germinated embryos. We identified a total of 160 conserved miRNAs from 38 families, 3 novel miRNAs, and 16 plausible miRNA candidates, of which many were upregulated in germinated embryos relative to dormant embryos. These findings indicate that larches and possibly other gymnosperms have complex mechanisms of gene regulation involving miRNAs and other sRNAs operating transcriptionally and posttranscriptionally during embryo dormancy and germination. We propose that abscisic acid modulates embryo dormancy and germination at least in part through regulation of the expression level of sRNA-biogenesis genes, thus changing the sRNA components.
PMCID: PMC3858266  PMID: 24339932
11.  Physcomitrella patens DCL3 Is Required for 22–24 nt siRNA Accumulation, Suppression of Retrotransposon-Derived Transcripts, and Normal Development 
PLoS Genetics  2008;4(12):e1000314.
Endogenous 24 nt short interfering RNAs (siRNAs), derived mostly from intergenic and repetitive genomic regions, constitute a major class of endogenous small RNAs in flowering plants. Accumulation of Arabidopsis thaliana 24 nt siRNAs requires the Dicer family member DCL3, and clear homologs of DCL3 exist in both flowering and non-flowering plants. However, the absence of a conspicuous 24 nt peak in the total RNA populations of several non-flowering plants has raised the question of whether this class of siRNAs might, in contrast to the ancient 21 nt microRNAs (miRNAs) and 21–22 nt trans-acting siRNAs (tasiRNAs), be an angiosperm-specific innovation. Analysis of non-miRNA, non-tasiRNA hotspots of small RNA production within the genome of the moss Physcomitrella patens revealed multiple loci that consistently produced a mixture of 21–24 nt siRNAs with a peak at 23 nt. These Pp23SR loci were significantly enriched in transposon content, depleted in overlap with annotated genes, and typified by dense concentrations of the 5-methyl cytosine (5 mC) DNA modification. Deep sequencing of small RNAs from two independent Ppdcl3 mutants showed that the P. patens DCL3 homolog is required for the accumulation of 22–24 nt siRNAs, but not 21 nt siRNAs, at Pp23SR loci. The 21 nt component of Pp23SR-derived siRNAs was also unaffected by a mutation in the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase mutant Pprdr6. Transcriptome-wide, Ppdcl3 mutants failed to accumulate 22–24 nt small RNAs from repetitive regions while transcripts from two abundant families of long terminal repeat (LTR) retrotransposon-associated reverse transcriptases were up-regulated. Ppdcl3 mutants also displayed an acceleration of leafy gametophore production, suggesting that repetitive siRNAs may play a role in the development of P. patens. We conclude that intergenic/repeat-derived siRNAs are indeed a broadly conserved, distinct class of small regulatory RNAs within land plants.
Author Summary
Very small RNAs (between ∼21 and ∼30 single-stranded bases) are a ubiquitous component of gene regulation in nearly all eukaryotic organisms. The small RNA repertoire of angiosperms (the flowering plants) is exceptionally diverse and includes conspicuous populations of 21 nt microRNAs, as well a diverse set of 24 nt short, interfering RNAs (siRNAs). The 24 nt siRNAs have well-documented roles in enforcing the silence of parasitic regions of the genome, but are not readily apparent in the small RNA populations of several lineages of ancient, non-flowering plants. We found numerous “hotspots” of small RNA production from the genome of the moss P. patens that produced a mix of 21–24 nt siRNAs. Except for their broad mix of sizes, these hotspots were reminiscent of the 24 nt siRNA loci of angiosperms: they tended to associate with decayed transposons, to avoid annotated genes, and to be densely modified with the epigenetic mark 5-methyl cytosine. Deletion of a P. patens Dicer gene abolished production of 22–24 nt siRNAs both from these loci and transcriptome-wide, especially from repetitive regions. We conclude that both microRNAs and intergenic/repeat-associated siRNAs are ancient small RNA regulators in plants, but that the sizes of the siRNAs themselves have drifted over time.
PMCID: PMC2600652  PMID: 19096705
12.  Asymmetric purine-pyrimidine distribution in cellular small RNA population of papaya 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:682.
The small RNAs (sRNA) are a regulatory class of RNA mainly represented by the 21 and 24-nucleotide size classes. The cellular sRNAs are processed by RNase III family enzyme dicer (Dicer like in plant) from a self-complementary hairpin loop or other type of RNA duplexes. The papaya genome has been sequenced, but its microRNAs and other regulatory RNAs are yet to be analyzed.
We analyzed the genomic features of the papaya sRNA population from three sRNA deep sequencing libraries made from leaves, flowers, and leaves infected with Papaya Ringspot Virus (PRSV). We also used the deep sequencing data to annotate the micro RNA (miRNA) in papaya. We identified 60 miRNAs, 24 of which were conserved in other species, and 36 of which were novel miRNAs specific to papaya. In contrast to the Chargaff’s purine-pyrimidine equilibrium, cellular sRNA was significantly biased towards a purine rich population. Of the two purine bases, higher frequency of adenine was present in 23nt or longer sRNAs, while 22nt or shorter sRNAs were over represented by guanine bases. However, this bias was not observed in the annotated miRNAs in plants. The 21nt species were expressed from fewer loci but expressed at higher levels relative to the 24nt species. The highly expressed 21nt species were clustered in a few isolated locations of the genome. The PRSV infected leaves showed higher accumulation of 21 and 22nt sRNA compared to uninfected leaves. We observed higher accumulation of miRNA* of seven annotated miRNAs in virus-infected tissue, indicating the potential function of miRNA* under stressed conditions.
We have identified 60 miRNAs in papaya. Our study revealed the asymmetric purine-pyrimidine distribution in cellular sRNA population. The 21nt species of sRNAs have higher expression levels than 24nt sRNA. The miRNA* of some miRNAs shows higher accumulation in PRSV infected tissues, suggesting that these strands are not totally functionally redundant. The findings open a new avenue for further investigation of the sRNA silencing pathway in plants.
PMCID: PMC3582581  PMID: 23216749
miRNA; siRNA; Papaya Ringspot Virus (PRSV); Small RNA strand selection; Transgene silencing
13.  Genome wide identification of chilling responsive microRNAs in Prunus persica 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:481.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small RNAs (sRNAs) approximately 21 nucleotides in length that negatively control gene expression by cleaving or inhibiting the translation of target gene transcripts. Within this context, miRNAs and siRNAs are coming to the forefront as molecular mediators of gene regulation in plant responses to annual temperature cycling and cold stress. For this reason, we chose to identify and characterize the conserved and non-conserved miRNA component of peach (Prunus persica (L.) Batsch) focusing our efforts on both the recently released whole genome sequence of peach and sRNA transcriptome sequences from two tissues representing non-dormant leaves and dormant leaf buds. Conserved and non-conserved miRNAs, and their targets were identified. These sRNA resources were used to identify cold-responsive miRNAs whose gene targets co-localize with previously described QTLs for chilling requirement (CR).
Analysis of 21 million peach sRNA reads allowed us to identify 157 and 230 conserved and non-conserved miRNA sequences. Among the non-conserved miRNAs, we identified 205 that seem to be specific to peach. Comparative genome analysis between peach and Arabidopsis showed that conserved miRNA families, with the exception of miR5021, are similar in size. Sixteen of these conserved miRNA families are deeply rooted in land plant phylogeny as they are present in mosses and/or lycophytes. Within the other conserved miRNA families, five families (miR1446, miR473, miR479, miR3629, and miR3627) were reported only in tree species (Populustrichocarpa, Citrus trifolia, and Prunus persica). Expression analysis identified several up-regulated or down-regulated miRNAs in winter buds versus young leaves. A search of the peach proteome allowed the prediction of target genes for most of the conserved miRNAs and a large fraction of non-conserved miRNAs. A fraction of predicted targets in peach have not been previously reported in other species. Several conserved and non-conserved miRNAs and miRNA-regulated genes co-localize with Quantitative Trait Loci (QTLs) for chilling requirement (CR-QTL) and bloom date (BD-QTL).
In this work, we identified a large set of conserved and non-conserved miRNAs and describe their evolutionary footprint in angiosperm lineages. Several of these miRNAs were induced in winter buds and co-localized with QTLs for chilling requirement and bloom date thus making their gene targets potential candidates for mediating plant responses to cold stress. Several peach homologs of genes participating in the regulation of vernalization in Arabidopsis were identified as differentially expressed miRNAs targets, potentially linking these gene activities to cold responses in peach dormant buds. The non-conserved miRNAs may regulate cellular, physiological or developmental processes specific to peach and/or other tree species.
PMCID: PMC3463484  PMID: 22978558
microRNAs; Distribution; Expression; Cold stress; Chilling requirement; Bud development
14.  Divergent patterns of endogenous small RNA populations from seed and vegetative tissues of Glycine max 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:177.
Small non-coding RNAs (smRNAs) are known to have major roles in gene regulation in eukaryotes. In plants, knowledge of the biogenesis and mechanisms of action of smRNA classes including microRNAs (miRNAs), short interfering RNAs (siRNAs), and trans-acting siRNAs (tasiRNAs) has been gained mostly through studies with Arabidopsis. In recent years, high throughput sequencing of smRNA populations has enabled extension of knowledge from model systems to plants with larger, more complex genomes. Soybean (Glycine max) now has many genomics resources available including a complete genome sequence and predicted gene models. Relatively little is known, however, about the full complement of its endogenous smRNAs populations and the silenced genes.
Using Illumina sequencing and computational analysis, we characterized eight smRNA populations from multiple tissues and organs of soybean including developing seed and vegetative tissues. A total of 41 million raw sequence reads collapsed into 135,055 unique reads were mapped to the soybean genome and its predicted cDNA gene models. Bioinformatic analyses were used to distinguish miRNAs and siRNAs and to determine their genomic origins and potential target genes. In addition, we identified two soybean TAS3 gene homologs, the miRNAs that putatively guide cleavage of their transcripts, and the derived tasiRNAs that could target soybean genes annotated as auxin response factors. Tissue-differential expression based on the flux of normalized miRNA and siRNA abundances in the eight smRNA libraries was evident, some of which was confirmed by smRNA blotting. Our global view of these smRNA populations also revealed that the size classes of smRNAs varied amongst different tissues, with the developing seed and seed coat having greater numbers of unique smRNAs of the 24-nt class compared to the vegetative tissues of germinating seedlings. The 24-nt class is known to be derived from repetitive elements including transposons. Detailed analysis of the size classes associated with ribosomal RNAs and transposable element families showed greater diversity of smRNAs in the 22- and 24-nt size classes.
The flux of endogenous smRNAs within multiple stages and tissues of seed development was contrasted with vegetative tissues of soybean, one of the dominant sources of protein and oil in world markets. The smRNAs varied in size class, complexity of origins, and possible targets. Sequencing revealed tissue-preferential expression for certain smRNAs and expression differences among closely related miRNA family members.
PMCID: PMC3534067  PMID: 23031057
15.  Differential sRNA Regulation in Leaves and Roots of Sugarcane under Water Depletion 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93822.
Plants have developed multiple regulatory mechanisms to respond and adapt to stress. Drought stress is one of the major constraints to agricultural productivity worldwide and recent reports have highlighted the importance of plant sRNA in the response and adaptation to water availability. In order to increase our understanding of the roles of sRNA in response to water depletion, cultivars of sugarcane were submitted to treatment of ceasing drip irrigation for 24 hours. Deep sequencing analysis was carried out to identify the sRNA regulated in leaves and roots of sugarcane cultivars with different drought sensitivities. The pool of sRNA selected allowed the analysis of different sRNA classes (miRNA and siRNA). Twenty-eight and 36 families of conserved miRNA were identified in leaf and root libraries, respectively. Dynamic regulation of miRNA was observed and the expression profiles of eight miRNA were verified in leaf samples from three biological replicates by stem-loop qRT-PCR assay using the cultivars: SP90–1638 - sensitive cultivar- and; SP83–2847 and SP83–5073 - tolerant cultivars. Altered miRNA regulation was correlated with changes in mRNA levels of specific targets. Two leaf libraries from individual sugarcane cultivars with contrasting drought-tolerance properties were also analyzed. An enrichment of 22-nt sRNA species was observed in leaf libraries. 22-nt miRNA triggered siRNA production by cleavage of their targets in response to water depletion. A number of genes of the sRNA biogenesis pathway were down-regulated in tolerant genotypes and up-regulated in sensitive in response to water depletion treatment. Our analysis contributes to increase the knowledge on the roles of sRNA in sugarcane submitted to water depletion.
PMCID: PMC3973653  PMID: 24695493
16.  Identification of drought-responsive and novel Populus trichocarpa microRNAs by high-throughput sequencing and their targets using degradome analysis 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:233.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are endogenous small RNAs (sRNAs) with a wide range of regulatory functions in plant development and stress responses. Although miRNAs associated with plant drought stress tolerance have been studied, the use of high-throughput sequencing can provide a much deeper understanding of miRNAs. Drought is a common stress that limits the growth of plants. To obtain more insight into the role of miRNAs in drought stress, Illumina sequencing of Populus trichocarpa sRNAs was implemented.
Two sRNA libraries were constructed by sequencing data of control and drought stress treatments of poplar leaves. In total, 207 P. trichocarpa conserved miRNAs were detected from the two sRNA libraries. In addition, 274 potential candidate miRNAs were found; among them, 65 candidates with star sequences were chosen as novel miRNAs. The expression of nine conserved miRNA and three novel miRNAs showed notable changes in response to drought stress. This was also confirmed by quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction experiments. To confirm the targets of miRNAs experimentally, two degradome libraries from the two treatments were constructed. According to degradome sequencing results, 53 and 19 genes were identified as targets of conserved and new miRNAs, respectively. Functional analysis of these miRNA targets indicated that they are involved in important activities such as the regulation of transcription factors, the stress response, and lipid metabolism.
We discovered five upregulated miRNAs and seven downregulated miRNAs in response to drought stress. A total of 72 related target genes were detected by degradome sequencing. These findings reveal important information about the regulation mechanism of miRNAs in P. trichocarpa and promote the understanding of miRNA functions during the drought response.
PMCID: PMC3630063  PMID: 23570526
Populus trichocarpa; microRNA; Drought; Target identification
17.  Identification and profiling of miRNAs during herbivory reveals jasmonate-dependent and -independent patterns of accumulation in Nicotiana attenuata 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:209.
Plant microRNAs (miRNAs) play key roles in the transcriptional responses to environmental stresses. However, the role of miRNAs in responses to insect herbivory has not been thoroughly explored. To identify herbivory-responsive miRNAs, we identified conserved miRNAs in the ecological model plant Nicotiana attenuata whose interactions with herbivores have been well-characterized in both laboratory and field studies.
We identified 59 miRNAs from 36 families, and two endogenous trans-acting small interfering RNAs (tasiRNA) targeted by miRNAs. We characterized the response of the precursor and mature miRNAs to simulated attack from the specialist herbivore Manduca sexta by quantitative PCR analysis and used ir-aoc RNAi transformants, deficient in jasmonate biosynthesis, to identify jasmonate-dependent and -independent miRNA regulation. Expression analysis revealed that groups of miRNAs and tasiRNAs were specifically regulated by either mechanical wounding or wounding plus oral secretions from M. sexta larvae, and these small RNAs were accumulated in jasmonate-dependent or -independent manners. Moreover, cDNA microarray analysis indicated that the expression patterns of the corresponding target genes were correlated with the accumulation of miRNAs and tasiRNAs.
We show that a group of miRNAs and tasiRNAs orchestrates the expression of target genes involved in N. attenuata’s responses to herbivore attack.
PMCID: PMC3502350  PMID: 23134682
Anti-herbivore defense; Jasmonate; Manduca sexta; miRNA; Nicotiana attenuata; tasiRNA
18.  Genome-wide identification of microRNA and siRNA responsive to endophytic beneficial diazotrophic bacteria in maize 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):766.
Small RNA (sRNA) has been described as a regulator of gene expression. In order to understand the role of maize sRNA (Zea mays – hybrid UENF 506-8) during association with endophytic nitrogen-fixing bacteria, we analyzed the sRNA regulated by its association with two diazotrophic bacteria, Herbaspirillum seropedicae and Azospirillum brasilense.
Deep sequencing analysis was done with RNA extracted from plants inoculated with H. seropedicae, allowing the identification of miRNA and siRNA. A total of 25 conserved miRNA families and 15 novel miRNAs were identified. A dynamic regulation in response to inoculation was also observed. A hypothetical model involving copper-miRNA is proposed, emphasizing the fact that the up-regulation of miR397, miR398, miR408 and miR528, which is followed by inhibition of their targets, can facilitate association with diazotrophic bacteria. Similar expression patterns were observed in samples inoculated with A. brasilense. Moreover, novel miRNA and siRNA were classified in the Transposable Elements (TE) database, and an enrichment of siRNA aligned with TE was observed in the inoculated samples. In addition, an increase in 24-nt siRNA mapping to genes was observed, which was correlated with an increase in methylation of the coding regions and a subsequent reduction in transcription.
Our results show that maize has RNA-based silencing mechanisms that can trigger specific responses when plants interact with beneficial endophytic diazotrophic bacteria. Our findings suggest important roles for sRNA regulation in maize, and probably in other plants, during association with diazotrophic bacteria, emphasizing the up-regulation of Cu-miRNA.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-766) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4168055  PMID: 25194793
Herbaspirillum seropedicae; miRNA; siRNA; Azospirillum brasilense; Epigenetics
19.  A Comprehensive Expression Profile of MicroRNAs and Other Classes of Non-Coding Small RNAs in Barley Under Phosphorous-Deficient and -Sufficient Conditions 
Phosphorus (P) is essential for plant growth. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play a key role in phosphate homeostasis. However, little is known about P effect on miRNA expression in barley (Hordeum vulgare L.). In this study, we used Illumina's next-generation sequencing technology to sequence small RNAs (sRNAs) in barley grown under P-deficient and P-sufficient conditions. We identified 221 conserved miRNAs and 12 novel miRNAs, of which 55 were only present in P-deficient treatment while 32 only existed in P-sufficient treatment. Total 47 miRNAs were significantly differentially expressed between the two P treatments (|log2| > 1). We also identified many other classes of sRNAs, including sense and antisense sRNAs, repeat-associated sRNAs, transfer RNA (tRNA)-derived sRNAs and chloroplast-derived sRNAs, and some of which were also significantly differentially expressed between the two P treatments. Of all the sRNAs identified, antisense sRNAs were the most abundant sRNA class in both P treatments. Surprisingly, about one-fourth of sRNAs were derived from the chloroplast genome, and a chloroplast-encoded tRNA-derived sRNA was the most abundant sRNA of all the sRNAs sequenced. Our data provide valuable clues for understanding the properties of sRNAs and new insights into the potential roles of miRNAs and other classes of sRNAs in the control of phosphate homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC3628442  PMID: 23266877
deep sequencing; barley; phosphorus; non-coding small RNAs; miRNAs; differential expression
20.  Development-associated microRNAs in grains of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) 
BMC Plant Biology  2013;13:140.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of regulatory small RNAs (sRNAs) that down-regulate target genes by mRNA degradation or translational repression. Numerous plant miRNAs have been identified. Evidence is increasing for their crucial roles during plant development. In the globally important crop of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), the process by which grains are formed determines yield and end-use quality. However, little is known about miRNA-mediated developmental regulation of grain production. Here, we applied high-throughput sRNA sequencing and genome-wide mining to identify miRNAs potentially involved in the developmental regulation of wheat grains.
Four sRNA libraries were generated and sequenced from developing grains sampled at 5, 15, 25, and 30 days after pollination (DAP). Through integrative analysis, we identified 605 miRNAs (representing 540 families) and found that 86 are possibly involved in the control of grain-filling. Additionally, 268 novel miRNAs (182 families) were identified, with 18 of them also potentially related to that maturation process. Our target predictions indicated that the 104 grain filling-associated miRNAs might target a set of wheat genes involved in various biological processes, including the metabolism of carbohydrates and proteins, transcription, cellular transport, cell organization and biogenesis, stress responses, signal transduction, and phytohormone signaling. Together, these results demonstrate that the developmental steps by which wheat grains are filled is correlated with miRNA-mediated gene regulatory networks.
We identified 605 conserved and 268 novel miRNAs from wheat grains. Of these, 104 are potentially involved in the regulation of grain-filling. Our dataset provides a useful resource for investigating miRNA-mediated regulatory mechanisms in cereal grains, and our results suggest that miRNAs contribute to this regulation during a crucial phase in determining grain yield and flour quality.
PMCID: PMC4015866  PMID: 24060047
MicroRNA; Grain development; Wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)
21.  Specific Impact of Tobamovirus Infection on the Arabidopsis Small RNA Profile 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e19549.
Tobamoviruses encode a silencing suppressor that binds small RNA (sRNA) duplexes in vitro and supposedly in vivo to counteract antiviral silencing. Here, we used sRNA deep-sequencing combined with transcriptome profiling to determine the global impact of tobamovirus infection on Arabidopsis sRNAs and their mRNA targets. We found that infection of Arabidopsis plants with Oilseed rape mosaic tobamovirus causes a global size-specific enrichment of miRNAs, ta-siRNAs, and other phased siRNAs. The observed patterns of sRNA enrichment suggest that in addition to a role of the viral silencing suppressor, the stabilization of sRNAs might also occur through association with unknown host effector complexes induced upon infection. Indeed, sRNA enrichment concerns primarily 21-nucleotide RNAs with a 5′-terminal guanine. Interestingly, ORMV infection also leads to accumulation of novel miRNA-like sRNAs from miRNA precursors. Thus, in addition to canonical miRNAs and miRNA*s, miRNA precursors can encode additional sRNAs that may be functional under specific conditions like pathogen infection. Virus-induced sRNA enrichment does not correlate with defects in miRNA-dependent ta-siRNA biogenesis nor with global changes in the levels of mRNA and ta-siRNA targets suggesting that the enriched sRNAs may not be able to significantly contribute to the normal activity of pre-loaded RISC complexes. We conclude that tobamovirus infection induces the stabilization of a specific sRNA pool by yet unknown effector complexes. These complexes may sequester viral and host sRNAs to engage them in yet unknown mechanisms involved in plant:virus interactions.
PMCID: PMC3091872  PMID: 21572953
22.  DRB2 Is Required for MicroRNA Biogenesis in Arabidopsis thaliana 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35933.
The Arabidopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis) DOUBLE-STRANDED RNA BINDING (DRB) protein family consists of five members, DRB1 to DRB5. The biogenesis of two developmentally important small RNA (sRNA) species, the microRNAs (miRNAs) and trans-acting small interfering RNAs (tasiRNAs) by DICER-LIKE (DCL) endonucleases requires the assistance of DRB1 and DRB4 respectively. The importance of miRNA-directed target gene expression in plant development is exemplified by the phenotypic consequence of loss of DRB1 activity (drb1 plants).
Principal Findings
Here we report that the developmental phenotype of the drb235 triple mutant plant is the result of deregulated miRNA biogenesis in the shoot apical meristem (SAM) region. The expression of DRB2, DRB3 and DRB5 in wild-type seedlings is restricted to the SAM region. Small RNA sequencing of the corresponding tissue of drb235 plants revealed altered miRNA accumulation. Approximately half of the miRNAs detected remained at levels equivalent to those of wild-type plants. However, the accumulation of the remaining miRNAs was either elevated or reduced in the triple mutant. Examination of different single and multiple drb mutants revealed a clear association between the loss of DRB2 activity and altered accumulation for both the elevated and reduced miRNA classes. Furthermore, we show that the constitutive over-expression of DRB2 outside of its wild-type expression domain can compensate for the loss of DRB1 activity in drb1 plants.
Our results suggest that in the SAM region, DRB2 is both antagonistic and synergistic to the role of DRB1 in miRNA biogenesis, adding an additional layer of gene regulatory complexity in this developmentally important tissue.
PMCID: PMC3335824  PMID: 22545148
23.  Genome-Wide Identification of Different Dormant Medicago sativa L. MicroRNAs in Response to Fall Dormancy 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e114612.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of regulatory small RNAs (sRNAs) that regulate gene post-transcriptional expression in plants and animals. High-throughput sequencing technology is capable of identifying small RNAs in plant species. Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) is one of the most widely cultivated perennial forage legumes worldwide, and fall dormancy is an adaptive characteristic related to the biomass production and winter survival in alfalfa. Here, we applied high-throughput sRNA sequencing to identify some miRNAs that were responsive to fall dormancy in standard variety (Maverick and CUF101) of alfalfa.
Four sRNA libraries were generated and sequenced from alfalfa leaves in two typical varieties at distinct seasons. Through integrative analysis, we identified 51 novel miRNA candidates of 206 families. Additionally, we identified 28 miRNAs associated with fall dormancy in standard variety (Maverick and CUF101), including 20 known miRNAs and eight novel miRNAs. Both high-throughput sequencing and RT-qPCR confirmed that eight known miRNA members were up-regulated and six known miRNA members were down-regulated in response to fall dormancy in standard variety (Maverick and CUF101). Among the 51 novel miRNA candidates, five miRNAs were up-regulated and three miRNAs were down-regulated in response to fall dormancy in standard variety (Maverick and CUF101), and five of them were confirmed by Northern blot analysis.
We identified 20 known miRNAs and eight new miRNA candidates that were responsive to fall dormancy in standard variety (Maverick and CUF101) by high-throughput sequencing of small RNAs from Medicago sativa. Our data provide a useful resource for investigating miRNA-mediated regulatory mechanisms of fall dormancy in alfalfa, and these findings are important for our understanding of the roles played by miRNAs in the response of plants to abiotic stress in general and fall dormancy in alfalfa.
PMCID: PMC4256440  PMID: 25473944
24.  Construction of small RNA-mediated gene regulatory networks in the roots of rice (Oryza sativa) 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:510.
The root systems play essential roles for plants to anchorage to the soil, and to exploit the mineral and water resources. The molecular mechanisms underlying root development have been extensively studied to improve root system architecture, especially for the crops. Several microRNA (miRNA) families have been demonstrated to be involved in plant root development. However, whether the other small RNA (sRNA) species, which occupy a dominant portion of the plant endogenous sRNA population, possess potential roles in root development remains unclear.
In this study, by using sRNA high-throughput sequencing data, we made a comparison of the sRNA accumulation levels between the rice root tips and the whole roots. The sRNAs highly accumulated in the root tips and in the whole roots were extracted respectively. After Argonaute 1 (AGO1) enrichment analysis, the sRNAs with great potential of performing target cleavages were included for target prediction and degradome sequencing data-based validation. As a result, lists of the targets regulated by the AGO1-enriched sRNAs were obtained for both the root tips and the whole roots. Further evidences were identified from microarray data of the target genes to support some of the sRNA—target interactions. Specifically, the expression patterns of certain target genes in the root tips and the whole roots were contrary to those of the regulating sRNAs. Besides, several targets were indicated to play important roles in root development based on literature mining.
Taken together, the regulatory networks mediated by the sRNAs highly accumulated in the root tips or in the whole roots could advance our current understanding of the sRNA-involved molecular mechanisms underlying rice root development. And, the sRNA—target lists could serve as the basis for further functional investigations.
PMCID: PMC3734165  PMID: 23889819
Small RNA; Whole root; Root tip; Argonaute 1; Degradome; Network; Rice (Oryza sativa)
25.  smRNAome profiling to identify conserved and novel microRNAs in Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:197.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) constitute a family of small RNA (sRNA) population that regulates the gene expression and plays an important role in plant development, metabolism, signal transduction and stress response. Extensive studies on miRNAs have been performed in different plants such as Arabidopsis thaliana, Oryza sativa etc. and volume of the miRNA database, mirBASE, has been increasing on day to day basis. Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni is an important perennial herb which accumulates high concentrations of diterpene steviol glycosides which contributes to its high indexed sweetening property with no calorific value. Several studies have been carried out for understanding molecular mechanism involved in biosynthesis of these glycosides, however, information about miRNAs has been lacking in S. rebaudiana. Deep sequencing of small RNAs combined with transcriptomic data is a powerful tool for identifying conserved and novel miRNAs irrespective of availability of genome sequence data.
To identify miRNAs in S. rebaudiana, sRNA library was constructed and sequenced using Illumina genome analyzer II. A total of 30,472,534 reads representing 2,509,190 distinct sequences were obtained from sRNA library. Based on sequence similarity, we identified 100 miRNAs belonging to 34 highly conserved families. Also, we identified 12 novel miRNAs whose precursors were potentially generated from stevia EST and nucleotide sequences. All novel sequences have not been earlier described in other plant species. Putative target genes were predicted for most conserved and novel miRNAs. The predicted targets are mainly mRNA encoding enzymes regulating essential plant metabolic and signaling pathways.
This study led to the identification of 34 highly conserved miRNA families and 12 novel potential miRNAs indicating that specific miRNAs exist in stevia species. Our results provided information on stevia miRNAs and their targets building a foundation for future studies to understand their roles in key stevia traits.
PMCID: PMC3502355  PMID: 23116282
Stevia rebaudiana; Next generation sequencing; Small RNAs; Conserved and novel miRNA; miRNA targets

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