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BMC Plant Biol. 2010 Aug 4;10:159. doi: 10.1186/1471-2229-10-159.

Characterisation of microRNAs from apple (Malus domestica 'Royal Gala') vascular tissue and phloem sap.

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The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited, Plant & Food Research, Auckland Mail Centre, Mt Albert, Private Bag 92169, Auckland 1142, New Zealand.



Plant microRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of small, non-coding RNAs that play an important role in development and environmental responses. Hundreds of plant miRNAs have been identified to date, mainly from the model species for which there are available genome sequences. The current challenge is to characterise miRNAs from plant species with agricultural and horticultural importance, to aid our understanding of important regulatory mechanisms in crop species and enable improvement of crops and rootstocks.


Based on the knowledge that many miRNAs occur in large gene families and are highly conserved among distantly related species, we analysed expression of twenty-one miRNA sequences in different tissues of apple (Malus x domestica 'Royal Gala'). We identified eighteen sequences that are expressed in at least one of the tissues tested. Some, but not all, miRNAs expressed in apple tissues including the phloem tissue were also detected in the phloem sap sample derived from the stylets of woolly apple aphids. Most of the miRNAs detected in apple phloem sap were also abundant in the phloem sap of herbaceous species. Potential targets for apple miRNAs were identified that encode putative proteins shown to be targets of corresponding miRNAs in a number of plant species. Expression patterns of potential targets were analysed and correlated with expression of corresponding miRNAs.


This study validated tissue-specific expression of apple miRNAs that target genes responsible for plant growth, development, and stress response. A subset of characterised miRNAs was also present in the apple phloem translocation stream. A comparative analysis of phloem miRNAs in herbaceous species and woody perennials will aid our understanding of non-cell autonomous roles of miRNAs in plants.

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