Effects of drought on the microtranscriptome of field-grown sugarcane plants

Agustina Gentile, Thaís H Ferreira, Raphael S Mattos, Lara I Dias, Andrea A Hoshino, Monalisa S Carneiro, Glaucia M Souza, Tercílio Calsa, Rejane M Nogueira, Laurício Endres, Marcelo Menossi
Planta 2013, 237 (3): 783-98
Sugarcane (Saccharum spp.) is the most promising crop for renewable energy. Among the diverse stresses that affect plant productivity, drought stress frequently causes losses in sugarcane fields. Although several studies have addressed plant responses to drought using controlled environments, plant responses under field conditions are largely unknown. Recently, microRNA (miRNA)-mediated post-transcriptional regulation has been described as an important and decisive component in vegetal development and stress resistance modulation. The role of miRNAs in sugarcane responses to drought under field conditions is currently not known. Two sugarcane cultivars differing in drought tolerance were grown in the field with and without irrigation (rainfed) for 7 months. By using small RNA deep sequencing, we were able to identify 18 miRNA families comprising 30 mature miRNA sequences. Among these families, we found 13 mature miRNAs that were differentially expressed in drought-stressed plants. Seven miRNAs were differentially expressed in both cultivars. The target genes for many of the differentially expressed mature miRNAs were predicted, and some of them were validated by quantitative reverse transcription PCR. Among the targets, we found transcription factors, transporters, proteins associated with senescence, and proteins involved with flower development. All of these data increase our understanding of the role of miRNAs in the complex regulation of drought stress in field-grown sugarcane, providing valuable tools to develop new sugarcane cultivars tolerant to drought stress.

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