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New Phytol. 2008;179(1):67-80. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2008.02448.x. Epub 2008 Apr 22.

Evidence for stage-specific modulation of specific microRNAs (miRNAs) and miRNA processing components in zygotic embryo and female gametophyte of loblolly pine (Pinus taeda).

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Forest Biology, Institute of Paper Science and Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are known to regulate plant development, but have not been studied in gymnosperm seed tissues. The presence and characteristics of several miRNAs were examined in zygotic embryos (ZEs) and female gametophytes (FGs) of Pinus taeda (loblolly pine). Evidence for miRNAs was obtained using northern analyses and quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) mediated with poly(A) polymerase. Partial sequences of two miRNAs were verified. Three regions of putative mRNA targets were analyzed by qRT-PCR to monitor the occurrence of stage-dependent miRNA-mediated cleavage. Five miRNAs were identified in ZEs and FGs along with partial sequences of Pta-miR166 and Pta-miR167. Both miRNAs showed differing degrees of tissue-specific and stage-specific modulation. Analysis of HB15L mRNA (a potential Pta-miR166 target) suggested miRNA-guided cleavage in ZEs and FGs. Analysis of ARF8L mRNA (a potential Pta-miR167 target) implied cleavage in ZEs but not in FGs. Argonaute9-like mRNA (ptAGO9L) showed stage-specific modulation of expression in ZEs that appeared to be inverted in the corresponding FGs. MicroRNAs and argonaute genes varied spatiotemporally during seed development. The peak levels of Pta-miR166 in FGs and ptAGO9L in embryos occurred at stage 9.1, a critical transition point during embryo development and a point where somatic embryo maturation often stops. MicroRNAs identified in FG tissue may play a role in embryogenesis.

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