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Plant Cell. 2011 May;23(5):1729-40. doi: 10.1105/tpc.111.083915. Epub 2011 May 20.

cis- and trans-Regulation of miR163 and target genes confers natural variation of secondary metabolites in two Arabidopsis species and their allopolyploids.

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Section of Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology and Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, University of Texas, Austin, TX 78712, USA.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play essential roles in plant and animal development, but the cause and effect of miRNA expression divergence between closely related species and in interspecific hybrids or allopolyploids are unknown. Here, we show differential regulation of a miR163-mediated pathway in allotetraploids and their progenitors, Arabidopsis thaliana and Arabidopsis arenosa. miR163 is a recently evolved miRNA in A. thaliana and highly expressed in A. thaliana, but its expression was undetectable in A. arenosa and repressed in resynthesized allotetraploids. Repression of A. arenosa MIR163 (Aa MIR163) is caused by a weak cis-acting promoter and putative trans-acting repressor(s) present in A. arenosa and allotetraploids. Moreover, ectopic Aa MIR163 precursors were processed more efficiently in A. thaliana than in resynthesized allotetraploids, suggesting a role of posttranscriptional regulation in mature miR163 abundance. Target genes of miR163 encode a family of small molecule methyltransferases involved in secondary metabolite biosynthetic pathways that are inducible by a fungal elicitor, alamethicin. Loss of miR163 or overexpression of miR163 in mir163 mutant plants alters target transcript and secondary metabolite profiles. We suggest that cis- and trans-regulation of miRNA and other genes provides a molecular basis for natural variation of biochemical and metabolic pathways that are important to growth vigor and stress responses in Arabidopsis-related species and allopolyploids.

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