Small RNA deep sequencing reveals the important role of microRNAs in the halophyte Halostachys caspica

Ruirui Yang, Youling Zeng, Xiaoya Yi, Lijuan Zhao, Yufang Zhang
Plant Biotechnology Journal 2015, 13 (3): 395-408
MicroRNAs (miRNAs), an extensive class of small regulatory RNAs, play versatile roles in plant growth and development as well as stress responses. However, the regulatory mechanism is unclear on miRNA-mediated response to abiotic stress in plants. Halostachys caspica is a halophytic plant species and a great model for investigating plant response to salinity stress. However, no research has been performed on miRNAs in H. caspica. In this study, we employed deep sequencing to identify both conserved and novel miRNAs from salinity-exposed H. caspica and its untreated control. Among the 13-19 million sequences generated from both treatments, a total of 170 conserved miRNAs, belonging to 151 miRNA families, were identified; among these miRNAs, 31 were significantly up-regulated and 48 were significantly down-regulated by salinity stress. We also identified 102 novel miRNAs from H. caspica; among them, 12 miRNAs were significantly up-regulated and 13 were significantly down-regulated by salinity. qRT-PCR expression analysis validated the deep sequencing results and also demonstrated that miRNAs and their targeted genes were responsive to high salt stress and existed a negative expression correlation between miRNAs and their targets. miRNA-target prediction, GO and KEGG analysis showed that miRNAs were involved in salt stress-related biological pathway, including calcium signalling pathway, MAPK signalling pathway, plant hormone signal transduction and flavonoid biosynthesis, etc. This suggests that miRNAs play an important role in plant salt stress tolerance in H. caspica. This result could be used to improve salt tolerance in crops and woods.

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