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1.  Preparation of Multiplexed Small RNA Libraries From Plants 
Bio-protocol  2014;4(21):e1275.
High-throughput sequencing is a powerful tool for exploring small RNA populations in plants. The ever-increasing output from an Illumina Sequencing System allows for multiplexing multiple samples while still obtaining sufficient data for small RNA discovery and characterization. Here we describe a protocol for generating multiplexed small RNA libraries for sequencing up to 12 samples in one lane of an Illumina HiSeq System single-end, 50 base pair run. RNA ligases are used to add the 3′ and 5′ adaptors to purified small RNAs; ligation products that lack a small RNA molecule (adaptor-adaptor products) are intentionally depleted. After cDNA synthesis, a linear PCR step amplifies the DNA fragments. The 3′ PCR primers used here include unique 6-nucleotide sequences to allow for multiplexing up to 12 samples.
PMCID: PMC4675356  PMID: 26661568
2.  Phytophthora Have Distinct Endogenous Small RNA Populations That Include Short Interfering and microRNAs 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e77181.
In eukaryotes, RNA silencing pathways utilize 20-30-nucleotide small RNAs to regulate gene expression, specify and maintain chromatin structure, and repress viruses and mobile genetic elements. RNA silencing was likely present in the common ancestor of modern eukaryotes, but most research has focused on plant and animal RNA silencing systems. Phytophthora species belong to a phylogenetically distinct group of economically important plant pathogens that cause billions of dollars in yield losses annually as well as ecologically devastating outbreaks. We analyzed the small RNA-generating components of the genomes of P. infestans, P. sojae and P. ramorum using bioinformatics, genetic, phylogenetic and high-throughput sequencing-based methods. Each species produces two distinct populations of small RNAs that are predominantly 21- or 25-nucleotides long. The 25-nucleotide small RNAs were primarily derived from loci encoding transposable elements and we propose that these small RNAs define a pathway of short-interfering RNAs that silence repetitive genetic elements. The 21-nucleotide small RNAs were primarily derived from inverted repeats, including a novel microRNA family that is conserved among the three species, and several gene families, including Crinkler effectors and type III fibronectins. The Phytophthora microRNA is predicted to target a family of amino acid/auxin permeases, and we propose that 21-nucleotide small RNAs function at the post-transcriptional level. The functional significance of microRNA-guided regulation of amino acid/auxin permeases and the association of 21-nucleotide small RNAs with Crinkler effectors remains unclear, but this work provides a framework for testing the role of small RNAs in Phytophthora biology and pathogenesis in future work.
PMCID: PMC3804510  PMID: 24204767
3.  Virus-Derived Gene Expression and RNA Interference Vector for Grapevine 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(11):6002-6009.
The improvement of the agricultural and wine-making qualities of the grapevine (Vitis vinifera) is hampered by adherence to traditional varieties, the recalcitrance of this plant to genetic modifications, and public resistance to genetically modified organism (GMO) technologies. To address these challenges, we developed an RNA virus-based vector for the introduction of desired traits into grapevine without heritable modifications to the genome. This vector expresses recombinant proteins in the phloem tissue that is involved in sugar transport throughout the plant, from leaves to roots to berries. Furthermore, the vector provides a powerful RNA interference (RNAi) capability of regulating the expression of endogenous genes via virus-induced gene-silencing (VIGS) technology. Additional advantages of this vector include superb genetic capacity and stability, as well as the swiftness of technology implementation. The most significant applications of the viral vector include functional genomics of the grapevine and disease control via RNAi-enabled vaccination against pathogens or invertebrate pests.
PMCID: PMC3372183  PMID: 22438553
4.  Formation of Complexes at Plasmodesmata for Potyvirus Intercellular Movement Is Mediated by the Viral Protein P3N-PIPO 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(6):e1000962.
Intercellular transport of viruses through cytoplasmic connections, termed plasmodesmata (PD), is essential for systemic infection in plants by viruses. Previous genetic and ultrastructural data revealed that the potyvirus cyclindrical inclusion (CI) protein is directly involved in cell-to-cell movement, likely through the formation of conical structures anchored to and extended through PD. In this study, we demonstrate that plasmodesmatal localization of CI in N. benthamiana leaf cells is modulated by the recently discovered potyviral protein, P3N-PIPO, in a CI:P3N-PIPO ratio-dependent manner. We show that P3N-PIPO is a PD-located protein that physically interacts with CI in planta. The early secretory pathway, rather than the actomyosin motility system, is required for the delivery of P3N-PIPO and CI to PD. Moreover, CI mutations that disrupt virus cell-to-cell movement compromise PD-localization capacity. These data suggest that the CI and P3N-PIPO complex coordinates the formation of PD-associated structures that facilitate the intercellular movement of potyviruses in infected plants.
Author Summary
Plant viral pathogens cause an estimated US$60 billion loss in crop yields worldwide each year. Potyviruses, accounting for ∼30% of known plant viruses, include many agriculturally important viruses. Despite their importance, the cell-to-cell spread of potyviruses remains poorly understood. Previous studies have shown that at early time points of infection, the virus-encoded CI protein, one of 11 known potyviral proteins, is associated with cone-shaped structures at plasmodesmata (PD) and is involved in viral cell-to-cell movement. In this paper, we show that a newly identified potyviral protein, P3N-PIPO, is a PD-located protein and directs the CI protein to PD, facilitating the deposition of the cone-shaped structures of CI at PD by interacting with CI protein. We demonstrate that the mutant of CI, which impairs potyviral cell-to-cell movement, loses its ability to accumulate at PD. We further reveal that P3N-PIPO utilizes the secretory pathway rather than the actomyosin motility system for trafficking to PD. Taken together, the data presented in this study suggest that CI and P3N-PIPO coordinates the formation of conical structure at PD for potyviral cell-to-cell spread.
PMCID: PMC2891837  PMID: 20585568
5.  Genome-wide profiling of Populus small RNAs 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:620.
Short RNAs, and in particular microRNAs, are important regulators of gene expression both within defined regulatory pathways and at the epigenetic scale. We investigated the short RNA (sRNA) population (18-24 nt) of the transcriptome of green leaves from the sequenced Populus trichocarpa using a concatenation strategy in combination with 454 sequencing.
The most abundant size class of sRNAs were 24 nt. Long Terminal Repeats were particularly associated with 24 nt sRNAs. Additionally, some repetitive elements were associated with 22 nt sRNAs. We identified an sRNA hot-spot on chromosome 19, overlapping a region containing both the proposed sex-determining locus and a major cluster of NBS-LRR genes. A number of phased siRNA loci were identified, a subset of which are predicted to target PPR and NBS-LRR disease resistance genes, classes of genes that have been significantly expanded in Populus. Additional loci enriched for sRNA production were identified and characterised. We identified 15 novel predicted microRNAs (miRNAs), including miRNA*sequences, and identified a novel locus that may encode a dual miRNA or a miRNA and short interfering RNAs (siRNAs).
The short RNA population of P. trichocarpa is at least as complex as that of Arabidopsis thaliana. We provide a first genome-wide view of short RNA production for P. trichocarpa and identify new, non-conserved miRNAs.
PMCID: PMC2811130  PMID: 20021695
6.  Multi-megabase silencing in nucleolar dominance results from siRNA-directed de novo DNA methylation recognized by specific methylcytosine binding proteins 
Molecular cell  2008;32(5):673-684.
In genetic hybrids, the silencing of nucleolar rRNA genes inherited from one progenitor is the epigenetic phenomenon known as nucleolar dominance. An RNAi knockdown screen identified the Arabidopsis de novo cytosine methyltransferase, DRM2 and the methylcytosine binding domain proteins, MBD6 and MBD10 as activities required for nucleolar dominance. MBD10 localizes throughout the nucleus, but MBD6 preferentially associates with silenced rRNA genes, and does so in a DRM2-dependent manner. DRM2 methylation is thought to be guided by siRNAs whose biogenesis requires RNA-DEPENDENT RNA POLYMERASE 2 (RDR2) and DICER-LIKE 3 (DCL3). Consistent with this hypothesis, knockdown of DCL3 or RDR2 disrupts nucleolar dominance. In genetic hybrids, the silencing of nucleolar rRNA genes inherited from one progenitor is the epigenetic phenomenon known as nucleolar dominance. An RNAi knockdown screen identified the Arabidopsis de novo cytosine methyltransferase, DRM2 and the methylcytosine binding domain proteins, MBD6 and MBD10 as activities required for nucleolar dominance. MBD10 localizes throughout the nucleus, but MBD6 preferentially associates with silenced rRNA genes, and does so in a DRM2-dependent manner. DRM2 methylation is thought to be guided by siRNAs whose biogenesis requires RNA-DEPENDENT RNA POLYMERASE 2 (RDR2) and DICER-LIKE 3 (DCL3). Consistent with this hypothesis, knockdown of DCL3 or RDR2 disrupts nucleolar dominance. Collectively, these results indicate that in addition to directing the silencing of retrotransposons and noncoding repeats, siRNAs specify de novo cytosine methylation patterns that are recognized by MBD6 and MBD10 in the large-scale silencing of rRNA gene loci.
PMCID: PMC2741319  PMID: 19061642
7.  PRG-1 and 21U-RNAs interact to form the piRNA complex required for fertility in C. elegans 
Molecular cell  2008;31(1):67-78.
In metazoans Piwi-related Argonaute proteins have been linked to germ-line maintenance, and to a class of germ-line enriched small RNAs termed piRNAs. Here we show that an abundant class of 21-nucleotide small RNAs (21U-RNAs) are expressed in the C. elegans germ line, interact with the C. elegans Piwi-family member, PRG-1, and depend on PRG-1 activity for their accumulation. The PRG-1 protein is expressed throughout development and localizes to nuage-like structures called P-granules. Although 21U-RNA loci share a conserved upstream sequence motif, the mature 21U-RNAs are not conserved and, with few exceptions, fail to exhibit complementarity or evidence for direct regulation of other expressed sequences. Our findings demonstrate that 21U-RNAs are the piRNAs of C. elegans and link this class of small RNAs and their associated Piwi Argonaute to the maintenance of temperature-dependent fertility.
PMCID: PMC2570341  PMID: 18571452
8.  Update of ASRP: the Arabidopsis Small RNA Project database 
Nucleic Acids Research  2007;36(Database issue):D982-D985.
Development of the Arabidopsis Small RNA Project (ASRP) Database, which provides information and tools for the analysis of microRNA, endogenous siRNA and other small RNA-related features, has been driven by the introduction of high-throughput sequencing technology. To accommodate the demands of increased data, numerous improvements and updates have been made to ASRP, including new ways to access data, more efficient algorithms for handling data, and increased integration with community-wide resources. New search and visualization tools have also been developed to improve access to small RNA classes and their targets. ASRP is publicly available through a web interface at
PMCID: PMC2238918  PMID: 17999994
9.  Genome-Wide Profiling and Analysis of Arabidopsis siRNAs 
PLoS Biology  2007;5(3):e57.
Eukaryotes contain a diversified set of small RNA-guided pathways that control genes, repeated sequences, and viruses at the transcriptional and posttranscriptional levels. Genome-wide profiles and analyses of small RNAs, particularly the large class of 24-nucleotide (nt) short interfering RNAs (siRNAs), were done for wild-type Arabidopsis thaliana and silencing pathway mutants with defects in three RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RDR) and four Dicer-like (DCL) genes. The profiling involved direct analysis using a multiplexed, parallel-sequencing strategy. Small RNA-generating loci, especially those producing predominantly 24-nt siRNAs, were found to be highly correlated with repetitive elements across the genome. These were found to be largely RDR2- and DCL3-dependent, although alternative DCL activities were detected on a widespread level in the absence of DCL3. In contrast, no evidence for RDR2-alternative activities was detected. Analysis of RDR2- and DCL3-dependent small RNA accumulation patterns in and around protein-coding genes revealed that upstream gene regulatory sequences systematically lack siRNA-generating activities. Further, expression profiling suggested that relatively few genes, proximal to abundant 24-nt siRNAs, are regulated directly by RDR2- and DCL3-dependent silencing. We conclude that the widespread accumulation patterns for RDR2- and DCL3-dependent siRNAs throughout the Arabidopsis genome largely reflect mechanisms to silence highly repeated sequences.
Author Summary
The discovery of small RNA molecules that inactivate genes during normal growth and development or on invasion by viruses and other mobile genetic elements has profoundly altered our views about how genes are regulated. We set out to investigate the global patterns of small RNA formation and activity across the entire genome of the plant, Arabidopsis thaliana. We used new technology and bioinformatics to characterize and compare these patterns in normal plants and in plants with defects in various genes involved in RNA silencing. The results show vast populations of small RNAs in plants and reveal how specialized branches of the RNA-silencing pathway have been adopted for inactivation of different types of genome sequences.
There are a lot of small RNAs in Arabidopis that regulate other genes. These RNAs are produced by a number of enzymes; the authors have used mutants of these enzymes to see what each of them does.
PMCID: PMC1820830  PMID: 17298187
10.  High-Throughput Sequencing of Arabidopsis microRNAs: Evidence for Frequent Birth and Death of MIRNA Genes 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(2):e219.
In plants, microRNAs (miRNAs) comprise one of two classes of small RNAs that function primarily as negative regulators at the posttranscriptional level. Several MIRNA genes in the plant kingdom are ancient, with conservation extending between angiosperms and the mosses, whereas many others are more recently evolved. Here, we use deep sequencing and computational methods to identify, profile and analyze non-conserved MIRNA genes in Arabidopsis thaliana. 48 non-conserved MIRNA families, nearly all of which were represented by single genes, were identified. Sequence similarity analyses of miRNA precursor foldback arms revealed evidence for recent evolutionary origin of 16 MIRNA loci through inverted duplication events from protein-coding gene sequences. Interestingly, these recently evolved MIRNA genes have taken distinct paths. Whereas some non-conserved miRNAs interact with and regulate target transcripts from gene families that donated parental sequences, others have drifted to the point of non-interaction with parental gene family transcripts. Some young MIRNA loci clearly originated from one gene family but form miRNAs that target transcripts in another family. We suggest that MIRNA genes are undergoing relatively frequent birth and death, with only a subset being stabilized by integration into regulatory networks.
PMCID: PMC1790633  PMID: 17299599
11.  ASRP: the Arabidopsis Small RNA Project Database 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;33(Database Issue):D637-D640.
Eukaryotes produce functionally diverse classes of small RNAs (20–25 nt). These include microRNAs (miRNAs), which act as regulatory factors during growth and development, and short-interfering RNAs (siRNAs), which function in several epigenetic and post-transcriptional silencing systems. The Arabidopsis Small RNA Project (ASRP) seeks to characterize and functionally analyze the major classes of endogenous small RNAs in plants. The ASRP database provides a repository for sequences of small RNAs cloned from various Arabidopsis genotypes and tissues. Version 3.0 of the database contains 1920 unique sequences, with tools to assist in miRNA and siRNA identification and analysis. The comprehensive database is publicly available through a web interface at
PMCID: PMC540081  PMID: 15608278
12.  Genetic and Functional Diversification of Small RNA Pathways in Plants 
PLoS Biology  2004;2(5):e104.
Multicellular eukaryotes produce small RNA molecules (approximately 21–24 nucleotides) of two general types, microRNA (miRNA) and short interfering RNA (siRNA). They collectively function as sequence-specific guides to silence or regulate genes, transposons, and viruses and to modify chromatin and genome structure. Formation or activity of small RNAs requires factors belonging to gene families that encode DICER (or DICER-LIKE [DCL]) and ARGONAUTE proteins and, in the case of some siRNAs, RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RDR) proteins. Unlike many animals, plants encode multiple DCL and RDR proteins. Using a series of insertion mutants of Arabidopsis thaliana, unique functions for three DCL proteins in miRNA (DCL1), endogenous siRNA (DCL3), and viral siRNA (DCL2) biogenesis were identified. One RDR protein (RDR2) was required for all endogenous siRNAs analyzed. The loss of endogenous siRNA in dcl3 and rdr2 mutants was associated with loss of heterochromatic marks and increased transcript accumulation at some loci. Defects in siRNA-generation activity in response to turnip crinkle virus in dcl2 mutant plants correlated with increased virus susceptibility. We conclude that proliferation and diversification of DCL and RDR genes during evolution of plants contributed to specialization of small RNA-directed pathways for development, chromatin structure, and defense.
In plants, RNA-mediated silencing pathways have diversified in unique ways. This study elucidates the specific functions of some of the key regulators in development, chromatin structure, and pathogen defense
PMCID: PMC350667  PMID: 15024409
13.  Host-Specific Involvement of the HC Protein in the Long-Distance Movement of Potyviruses 
Journal of Virology  2002;76(4):1922-1931.
Plum pox virus (PPV) is a member of the Potyvirus genus that, in nature, infects trees of the Prunus genus. Although PPV infects systemically several species of the Nicotiana genus, such as N. clevelandii and N. benthamiana, and replicates in the inoculated leaves of N. tabacum, it is unable to infect systemically the last host. The long-distance movement defect of PPV was corrected in transgenic tobacco plants expressing the 5"-terminal region of the genome of tobacco etch virus (TEV), a potyvirus that infects systemically tobacco. The fact that PPV was unable to move to upper noninoculated leaves in tobacco plants transformed with the same TEV transgene, but with a mutation in the HC protein (HC-Pro)-coding sequences, identifies the multifunctional HC-Pro as the complementing factor, and strongly suggests that a defect in an HC-Pro activity is responsible for the long-distance movement defect of PPV in tobacco. Whereas PPV HC-Pro strongly intensifies the symptoms caused by potato virus X (PVX) in the PPV systemic hosts N. clevelandii and N. benthamiana, it has no apparent effect on PVX pathogenicity in tobacco, supporting the hypothesis that long-distance movement and pathogenicity enhancement are related activities of the potyviral HC proteins. The movement defect of PPV in tobacco could also be complemented by cucumber mosaic virus in a mixed infection, demonstrating that at least some components of the long-distance machinery of the potyviruses are not strictly virus specific. A general conclusion of this work is that the HC-Pro might be a relevant factor for controlling the host range of the potyviruses.
PMCID: PMC135908  PMID: 11799187

Results 1-13 (13)