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author:("Lu, shankar")
1.  Molecular characterization of the SPL gene family in Populus trichocarpa 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14:131.
SPLs, a family of transcription factors specific to plants, play vital roles in plant growth and development through regulation of various physiological and biochemical processes. Although Populus trichocarpa is a model forest tree, the PtSPL gene family has not been systematically studied.
Here we report the identification of 28 full-length PtSPLs, which distribute on 14 P. trichocarpa chromosomes. Based on the phylogenetic relationships of SPLs in P. trichocarpa and Arabidopsis, plant SPLs can be classified into 6 groups. Each group contains at least a PtSPL and an AtSPL. The N-terminal zinc finger 1 (Zn1) of SBP domain in group 6 SPLs has four cysteine residues (CCCC-type), while Zn1 of SPLs in the other groups mainly contains three cysteine and one histidine residues (C2HC-type). Comparative analyses of gene structures, conserved motifs and expression patterns of PtSPLs and AtSPLs revealed the conservation of plant SPLs within a group, whereas among groups, the P. trichocarpa and Arabidopsis SPLs were significantly different. Various conserved motifs were identified in PtSPLs but not found in AtSPLs, suggesting the diversity of plant SPLs. A total of 11 pairs of intrachromosome-duplicated PtSPLs were identified, suggesting the importance of gene duplication in SPL gene expansion in P. trichocarpa. In addition, 18 of the 28 PtSPLs, belonging to G1, G2 and G5, were found to be targets of miR156. Consistently, all of the AtSPLs in these groups are regulated by miR156. It suggests the conservation of miR156-mediated posttranscriptional regulation in plants.
A total of 28 full-length SPLs were identified from the whole genome sequence of P. trichocarpa. Through comprehensive analyses of gene structures, phylogenetic relationships, chromosomal locations, conserved motifs, expression patterns and miR156-mediated posttranscriptional regulation, the PtSPL gene family was characterized. Our results provide useful information for evolution and biological function of plant SPLs.
PMCID: PMC4035897  PMID: 24884654
2.  Identification, Molecular Cloning and Expression Analysis of Five RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase Genes in Salvia miltiorrhiza 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e95117.
RNA-dependent RNA polymerases (RDRs) act as key components of the small RNA biogenesis pathways and play significant roles in post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS) and antiviral defense. However, there is no information about the RDR gene family in Salvia miltiorrhiza, an emerging model medicinal plant with great economic value. Through genome-wide predication and subsequent molecular cloning, five full-length S. miltiorrhiza RDR genes, termed SmRDR1–SmRDR5, were identified. The length of SmRDR cDNAs varies between 3,262 (SmRDR5) and 4,130 bp (SmRDR3). The intron number of SmRDR genes varies from 3 (SmRDR1, SmRDR3 and SmRDR4) to 17 (SmRDR5). All of the deduced SmRDR protein sequences contain the conserved RdRp domain. Moreover, SmRDR2 and SmRDR4 have an additional RRM domain. Based on the phylogenetic tree constructed with sixteen RDRs from Arabidopsis, rice and S. miltiorrhiza, plant RDRs may be divided into four groups (RDR1–RDR4). The RDR1 group contains an AtRDR and an OsRDR, while includes two SmRDRs. On the contrary, the RDR3 group contains three AtRDRs and two OsRDRs, but has only one SmRDR. SmRDRs were differentially expressed in flowers, leaves, stems and roots of S. miltiorrhiza and responsive to methyl jasmonate treatment and cucumber mosaic virus infection. The results suggest the involvement of RDRs in S. miltiorrhiza development and response to abiotic and biotic stresses. It provides a foundation for further studying the regulation and biological functions of SmRDRs and the biogenesis pathways of small RNAs in S. miltiorrhiza.
PMCID: PMC3986363  PMID: 24733018
3.  Genome-wide characterization and comparative analysis of R2R3-MYB transcription factors shows the complexity of MYB-associated regulatory networks in Salvia miltiorrhiza 
BMC Genomics  2014;15:277.
MYB is the largest plant transcription factor gene family playing vital roles in plant growth and development. However, it has not been systematically studied in Salvia miltiorrhiza, an economically important medicinal plant.
Here we report the genome-wide identification and characterization of 110 R2R3-MYBs, the largest subfamily of MYBs in S. miltiorrhiza. The MYB domain and other motifs of SmMYBs are largely conserved with Arabidopsis AtMYBs, whereas the divergence of SmMYBs and AtMYBs also exists, suggesting the conservation and diversity of plant MYBs. SmMYBs and AtMYBs may be classified into 37 subgroups, of which 31 include proteins from S. miltiorrhiza and Arabidopsis, whereas 6 are specific to a species, indicating that the majority of MYBs play conserved roles, while others may exhibit species-specialized functions. SmMYBs are differentially expressed in various tissues of S. miltiorrhiza. The expression profiles are largely consistent with known functions of their Arabidopsis counterparts. The expression of a subset of SmMYBs is regulated by microRNAs, such as miR159, miR319, miR828 and miR858. Based on functional conservation of MYBs in a subgroup, SmMYBs potentially involved in the biosynthesis of bioactive compounds were identified.
A total of 110 R2R3-MYBs were identified and analyzed. The results suggest the complexity of MYB-mediated regulatory networks in S. miltiorrhiza and provide a foundation for understanding the regulatory mechanism of SmMYBs.
PMCID: PMC4023596  PMID: 24725266
4.  Genome-wide identification, molecular cloning, expression profiling and posttranscriptional regulation analysis of the Argonaute gene family in Salvia miltiorrhiza, an emerging model medicinal plant 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:512.
Argonaute (AGO) is the core component of RNA-induced silencing complex. The AGO gene family has been analyzed in various plant species; however, there is no report about AGOs in the well-known Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) plant, Salvia miltiorrhiza.
Through a genome-wide analysis, we identified ten SmAGO genes in S. miltiorrhiza. Full-length cDNAs of all SmAGOs were subsequently cloned and sequenced. These SmAGOs were characterized using a comprehensive approach. Sequence features, gene structures and conserved domains were analyzed by the comparison of SmAGOs and AtAGOs. Phylogenetic relationships among AGO proteins from S. miltiorrhiza, Arabidopsis and rice were revealed. The expression levels of SmAGO genes in various tissues of S. miltiorrhiza were investigated. The results implied that some SmAGOs, such as SmAGO1, SmAGO2, SmAGO3, SmAGO7 and SmAGO10, probably played similar roles as their counterparts in Arabidopsis; whereas the others could be more species-specialized. It suggests the conservation and diversity of AGOs in plants. Additionally, we identified a total of 24 hairpin structures, representing six miRNA gene families, to be miRNA precursors. Using the modified 5′-RACE method, we confirmed that SmAGO1 and SmAGO2 were targeted by S. miltiorrhiza miR168a/b and miR403, respectively. It suggests the conservation of AGO1-miR168 and AGO2-miR403 regulatory modules in S. miltiorrhiza and Arabidopsis.
This is the first attempt to explore SmAGOs and miRNAs in S. miltiorrhiza. The results provide useful information for further elucidation of gene silencing pathways in S. miltiorrhiza.
PMCID: PMC3750313  PMID: 23889895
5.  High-Throughput Sequencing and Characterization of the Small RNA Transcriptome Reveal Features of Novel and Conserved MicroRNAs in Panax ginseng 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e44385.
microRNAs (miRNAs) play vital regulatory roles in many organisms through direct cleavage of transcripts, translational repression, or chromatin modification. Identification of miRNAs has been carried out in various plant species. However, no information is available for miRNAs from Panax ginseng, an economically significant medicinal plant species. Using the next generation high-throughput sequencing technology, we obtained 13,326,328 small RNA reads from the roots, stems, leaves and flowers of P. ginseng. Analysis of these small RNAs revealed the existence of a large, diverse and highly complicated small RNA population in P. ginseng. We identified 73 conserved miRNAs, which could be grouped into 33 families, and 28 non-conserved ones belonging to 9 families. Characterization of P. ginseng miRNA precursors revealed many features, such as production of two miRNAs from distinct regions of a precursor, clusters of two precursors in a transcript, and generation of miRNAs from both sense and antisense transcripts. It suggests the complexity of miRNA production in P. gingseng. Using a computational approach, we predicted for the conserved and non-conserved miRNA families 99 and 31 target genes, respectively, of which eight were experimentally validated. Among all predicted targets, only about 20% are conserved among various plant species, whereas the others appear to be non-conserved, indicating the diversity of miRNA functions. Consistently, many miRNAs exhibited tissue-specific expression patterns. Moreover, we identified five dehydration- and ten heat-responsive miRNAs and found the existence of a crosstalk among some of the stress-responsive miRNAs. Our results provide the first clue to the elucidation of miRNA functions in P. ginseng.
PMCID: PMC3433442  PMID: 22962612
6.  Identification and characterization of small non-coding RNAs from Chinese fir by high throughput sequencing 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:146.
Small non-coding RNAs (sRNAs) play key roles in plant development, growth and responses to biotic and abiotic stresses. At least four classes of sRNAs have been well characterized in plants, including repeat-associated siRNAs (rasiRNAs), microRNAs (miRNAs), trans-acting siRNAs (tasiRNAs) and natural antisense transcript-derived siRNAs. Chinese fir (Cunninghamia lanceolata) is one of the most important coniferous evergreen tree species in China. No sRNA from Chinese fir has been described to date.
To obtain sRNAs in Chinese fir, we sequenced a sRNA library generated from seeds, seedlings, leaves, stems and calli, using Illumina high throughput sequencing technology. A comprehensive set of sRNAs were acquired, including conserved and novel miRNAs, rasiRNAs and tasiRNAs. With BLASTN and MIREAP we identified a total of 115 conserved miRNAs comprising 40 miRNA families and one novel miRNA with precursor sequence. The expressions of 16 conserved and one novel miRNAs and one tasiRNA were detected by RT-PCR. Utilizing real time RT-PCR, we revealed that four conserved and one novel miRNAs displayed developmental stage-specific expression patterns in Chinese fir. In addition, 209 unigenes were predicted to be targets of 30 Chinese fir miRNA families, of which five target genes were experimentally verified by 5' RACE, including a squamosa promoter-binding protein gene, a pentatricopeptide (PPR) repeat-containing protein gene, a BolA-like family protein gene, AGO1 and a gene of unknown function. We also demonstrated that the DCL3-dependent rasiRNA biogenesis pathway, which had been considered absent in conifers, existed in Chinese fir. Furthermore, the miR390-TAS3-ARF regulatory pathway was elucidated.
We unveiled a complex population of sRNAs in Chinese fir through high throughput sequencing. This provides an insight into the composition and function of sRNAs in Chinese fir and sheds new light on land plant sRNA evolution.
PMCID: PMC3462689  PMID: 22894611
Chinese fir; miRNA; rasiRNA; tasiRNA; Cunninghamia lanceolata
7.  Transcriptome-wide identification and characterization of miRNAs from Pinus densata 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:132.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play key roles in diverse developmental processes, nutrient homeostasis and responses to biotic and abiotic stresses. The biogenesis and regulatory functions of miRNAs have been intensively studied in model angiosperms, such as Arabidopsis thaliana, Oryza sativa and Populus trichocarpa. However, global identification of Pinus densata miRNAs has not been reported in previous research.
Here, we report the identification of 34 conserved miRNAs belonging to 25 miRNA families from a P. densata mRNA transcriptome database using local BLAST and MIREAP programs. The primary and/or precursor sequences of 29 miRNAs were further confirmed by RT-PCR amplification and subsequent sequencing. The average value of the minimal folding free energy indexes of the 34 miRNA precursors was 0.92. Nineteen (58%) mature miRNAs began with a 5' terminal uridine residue. Analysis of miRNA precursors showed that 19 mature miRNAs were novel members of 14 conserved miRNA families, of which 17 miRNAs were further validated by subcloning and sequencing. Using real-time quantitative RT-PCR, we found that the expression levels of 7 miRNAs were more than 2-fold higher in needles than in stems. In addition, 72 P. densata mRNAs were predicted to be targets of 25 miRNA families. Four target genes, including a nodal modulator 1-like protein gene, two GRAS family transcription factor protein genes and one histone deacetylase gene, were experimentally verified to be the targets of 3 P. densata miRNAs, pde-miR162a, pde-miR171a and pde-miR482a, respectively.
This study led to the discovery of 34 conserved miRNAs comprising 25 miRNA families from Pinus densata. These results lay a solid foundation for further studying the regulative roles of miRNAs in the development, growth and responses to environmental stresses in P. densata.
PMCID: PMC3347991  PMID: 22480283
Pinus densata; miRNA; Transcriptome
8.  Genome-wide identification and characterization of novel genes involved in terpenoid biosynthesis in Salvia miltiorrhiza 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2012;63(7):2809-2823.
Terpenoids are the largest class of plant secondary metabolites and have attracted widespread interest. Salvia miltiorrhiza, belonging to the largest and most widely distributed genus in the mint family, is a model medicinal plant with great economic and medicinal value. Diterpenoid tanshinones are the major lipophilic bioactive components in S. miltiorrhiza. Systematic analysis of genes involved in terpenoid biosynthesis has not been reported to date. Searching the recently available working draft of the S. miltiorrhiza genome, 40 terpenoid biosynthesis-related genes were identified, of which 27 are novel. These genes are members of 19 families, which encode all of the enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of the universal isoprene precursor isopentenyl diphosphate and its isomer dimethylallyl diphosphate, and two enzymes associated with the biosynthesis of labdane-related diterpenoids. Through a systematic analysis, it was found that 20 of the 40 genes could be involved in tanshinone biosynthesis. Using a comprehensive approach, the intron/exon structures and expression patterns of all identified genes and their responses to methyl jasmonate treatment were analysed. The conserved domains and phylogenetic relationships among the deduced S. miltiorrhiza proteins and their homologues isolated from other plant species were revealed. It was discovered that some of the key enzymes, such as 1-deoxy-D-xylulose 5-phosphate synthase, 4-hydroxy-3-methylbut-2-enyl diphosphate reductase, hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA reductase, and geranylgeranyl diphosphate synthase, are encoded by multiple gene members with different expression patterns and subcellular localizations, and both homomeric and heteromeric geranyl diphosphate synthases exist in S. miltiorrhiza. The results suggest the complexity of terpenoid biosynthesis and the existence of metabolic channels for diverse terpenoids in S. miltiorrhiza and provide useful information for improving tanshinone production through genetic engineering.
PMCID: PMC3346237  PMID: 22291132
Salvia; Salvia miltiorrhiza; tanshinone; terpenoid biosynthesis
9.  Comprehensive transcriptome analysis reveals novel genes involved in cardiac glycoside biosynthesis and mlncRNAs associated with secondary metabolism and stress response in Digitalis purpurea 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:15.
Digitalis purpurea is an important ornamental and medicinal plant. There is considerable interest in exploring its transcriptome.
Through high-throughput 454 sequencing and subsequent assembly, we obtained 23532 genes, of which 15626 encode conserved proteins. We determined 140 unigenes to be candidates involved in cardiac glycoside biosynthesis. It could be grouped into 30 families, of which 29 were identified for the first time in D. purpurea. We identified 2660 mRNA-like npcRNA (mlncRNA) candidates, an emerging class of regulators, using a computational mlncRNA identification pipeline and 13 microRNA-producing unigenes based on sequence conservation and hairpin structure-forming capability. Twenty five protein-coding unigenes were predicted to be targets of these microRNAs. Among the mlncRNA candidates, only 320 could be grouped into 140 families with at least two members in a family. The majority of D. purpurea mlncRNAs were species-specific and many of them showed tissue-specific expression and responded to cold and dehydration stresses. We identified 417 protein-coding genes with regions significantly homologous or complementary to 375 mlncRNAs. It includes five genes involved in secondary metabolism. A positive correlation was found in gene expression between protein-coding genes and the homologous mlncRNAs in response to cold and dehydration stresses, while the correlation was negative when protein-coding genes and mlncRNAs were complementary to each other.
Through comprehensive transcriptome analysis, we not only identified 29 novel gene families potentially involved in the biosynthesis of cardiac glycosides but also characterized a large number of mlncRNAs. Our results suggest the importance of mlncRNAs in secondary metabolism and stress response in D. purpurea.
PMCID: PMC3269984  PMID: 22233149
10.  Adenylation of plant miRNAs 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;37(6):1878-1885.
The modification or degradation of RNAs including miRNAs may play vital roles in regulating RNA functions. The polyadenylation- and exosome-mediated RNA decay is involved in the degradation of plant RNAs including the primary miRNA processing intermediates. However, plant miRNA levels are not affected by exosome depletion. Here, we report the cloning of a large number of 5′ and/or 3′ truncated versions of the known miRNAs from various tissues of Populus trichocarpa (black cottonwood). It suggests that plant miRNAs may be degraded through either 5′ to 3′ or 3′ to 5′ exonucleolytic digestion. We also show that a significant portion of the isolated miRNAs contains, at the 3′-end, one or a few post-transcriptionally added adenylic acid residues, which are distinct in length from the polyadenylate tail added to other plant RNAs for exosome-mediated degradation. Using an in vitro miRNA degradation system, where synthesized miRNA oligos were degraded in extracts of P. trichocarpa cells, we revealed that the adenylated miRNAs were degraded slower than others without adenylation. It indicates that addition of adenylic acid residues on the 3′-end plays a negative role in miRNA degradation. Our results provide new information for understanding the mechanism of miRNA degradation.
PMCID: PMC2665221  PMID: 19188256
11.  RNA silencing in plants by the expression of siRNA duplexes 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(21):e171.
In animal cells, stable RNA silencing can be achieved by vector-based small interfering RNA (siRNA) expression system, in which Pol III RNA gene promoters are used to drive the expression of short hairpin RNA, however, this has not been demonstrated in plants. Whether Pol III RNA gene promoter is capable of driving siRNA expression in plants is unknown. Here, we report that RNA silencing was achieved in plants through stable expression of short hairpin RNA, which was driven by Pol III RNA gene promoters. Using glucuronidase (GUS) transformed tobacco as a model system, the results demonstrated that 21 nt RNA duplexes, targeting at different sites of GUS gene, were stably expressed under the control of either human H1 or Arabidopsis 7SL RNA gene promoter, and GUS gene was silenced in 80% of siRNA transgenics. The severity of silencing was correlated with the abundance of siRNA expression but independent of the target sites and uridine residue structures in siRNA hairpin transcripts. Thus, the specific expression of siRNA provides a new system for the study of siRNA silencing pathways and functional genomics in plants. Moreover, the effectiveness of the human H1 promoter in a plant background suggested a conserved mechanism underlying Pol III complex functionality.
PMCID: PMC535699  PMID: 15576678

Results 1-11 (11)