JOURNAL ARTICLE

microRNAs associated with drought response in the bioenergy crop sugarcane (Saccharum spp.)

Thaís Helena Ferreira, Agustina Gentile, Romel Duarte Vilela, Gustavo Gilson Lacerda Costa, Lara Isys Dias, Laurício Endres, Marcelo Menossi
PloS One 2012, 7 (10): e46703
23071617
Sugarcane (Saccharum spp.) is one of the most important crops in the world. Drought stress is a major abiotic stress factor that significantly reduces sugarcane yields. However the gene network that mediates plant responses to water stress remains largely unknown in several crop species. Although several microRNAs that mediate post-transcriptional regulation during water stress have been described in other species, the role of the sugarcane microRNAs during drought stress has not been studied. The objective of this work was to identify sugarcane miRNAs that are differentially expressed under drought stress and to correlate this expression with the behavior of two sugarcane cultivars with different drought tolerances. The sugarcane cultivars RB867515 (higher drought tolerance) and RB855536 (lower drought tolerance) were cultivated in a greenhouse for three months and then subjected to drought for 2, 4, 6 or 8 days. By deep sequencing of small RNAs, we were able to identify 18 miRNA families. Among all of the miRNAs thus identified, seven were differentially expressed during drought. Six of these miRNAs were differentially expressed at two days of stress, and five miRNAs were differentially expressed at four days. The expression levels of five miRNAs (ssp-miR164, ssp-miR394, ssp-miR397, ssp-miR399-seq 1 and miR528) were validated by RT-qPCR (quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR). Six precursors and the targets of the differentially expressed miRNA were predicted using an in silico approach and validated by RT-qPCR; many of these targets may play important roles in drought tolerance. These findings constitute a significant increase in the number of identified miRNAs in sugarcane and contribute to the elucidation of the complex regulatory network that is activated by drought stress.

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