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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Jan 31;109(5):1790-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1118282109. Epub 2012 Jan 18.

MicroRNA regulation of plant innate immune receptors.

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Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.


Plant genomes contain large numbers of cell surface leucine-rich repeat (LRR) and intracellular nucleotide binding (NB)-LRR immune receptors encoded by resistance (R) genes that recognize specific pathogen effectors and trigger resistance responses. The unregulated expression of NB-LRR genes can trigger autoimmunity in the absence of pathogen infection and inhibit plant growth. Despite the potential serious consequence on agricultural production, the mechanisms regulating R-gene expression are not well understood. We identified microRNA (miRNA) progenitor genes precursor transcripts, and two miRNAs [nta-miR6019 (22-nt) and nta-miR6020 (21-nt)] that guide cleavage of transcripts of the Toll and Interleukin-1 receptor-NB-LRR immune receptor N from tobacco that confers resistance to tobacco mosaic virus (TMV). We further showed that cleavage by nta-miR6019 triggers RNA-dependent RNA polymerase 6- and ribonuclease Dicer-like 4-dependent biogenesis of 21-nt secondary siRNAs "in phase" with the 22-nt miR6019 cleavage site. Furthermore, we found that processing of the 22-nt nta-miR6019 depended on an asymmetric bulge caused by mismatch in the nta-miR6019 precursor. Interestingly, coexpression of N with nta-miR6019 and nta-miR6020 resulted in attenuation of N-mediated resistance to TMV, indicating that these miRNAs have functional roles in NB-LRR regulation. Using a bioinformatics approach, we identified six additional 22-nt miRNA and two 21-nt miRNA families from three Solanaceae species-tobacco, tomato, and potato. We show that members of these miRNA families cleave transcripts of predicted functional R genes and trigger production of phased secondary 21-nt siRNAs. Our results demonstrate a conserved role for miRNAs and secondary siRNAs in NB-LRR/LRR immune receptor gene regulation and pathogen resistance in Solanaceae.

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