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Plant J. 2008 Mar;53(5):739-49. Epub 2007 Nov 14.

Identification and characterization of small RNAs from the phloem of Brassica napus.

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Department Lothar Willmitzer, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology, 14 476 Potsdam, Germany.


Systemic signalling is indispensable for the coordination of diverse physiological processes during development, defence and nutrient allocation. Indirect evidence suggests that plant small RNAs (smRNAs) could be involved in long-distance information transfer via the vasculature of the plant. Analyses of the smRNA complements of vascular exudates from oilseed rape (Brassica napus) showed that xylem sap is devoid of RNA, whereas phloem sap contained a large number of smRNAs. In addition to 32 annotated microRNAs (miRNAs) from 18 different families that could be identified and approved, a set of unknown smRNAs, predominantly of 21 and 24 nucleotides in length, was obtained, and selected candidates were found to be highly abundant in phloem sap. Moreover, we could demonstrate that the levels of three miRNAs known to respond to nutrient deprivation in non-vascular tissue, miR395 (sulphate), miR398 (copper) and miR399 (phosphate), were increased in phloem sap during the growth of plants under the respective starvation conditions. Interestingly, only mature miRNA molecules were found to be stress responsive, demonstrating that single-stranded sense miRNAs are most likely to represent the physiologically relevant molecules. The strong responses in the phloem suggest a role of miRNAs in systemic information transfer via this long-distance transport system.

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