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Mol Plant. 2012 Nov;5(6):1281-94. doi: 10.1093/mp/sss036. Epub 2012 Apr 17.

DICER-LIKE3 activity in Physcomitrella patens DICER-LIKE4 mutants causes severe developmental dysfunction and sterility.

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Plant Biotechnology, University of Freiburg, Schaenzlestraβe 1, D-79104 Freiburg, Germany.


Trans-acting small interfering RNAs (ta-siRNAs) are plant-specific siRNAs released from TAS precursor transcripts after microRNA-dependent cleavage, conversion into double-stranded RNA, and Dicer-dependent phased processing. Like microRNAs (miRNAs), ta-siRNAs direct site-specific cleavage of target RNAs at sites of extensive complementarity. Here, we show that the DICER-LIKE 4 protein of Physcomitrella patens (PpDCL4) is essential for the biogenesis of 21 nucleotide (nt) ta-siRNAs. In ΔPpDCL4 mutants, off-sized 23 and 24-nt ta-siRNAs accumulated as the result of PpDCL3 activity. ΔPpDCL4 mutants display severe abnormalities throughout Physcomitrella development, including sterility, that were fully reversed in ΔPpDCL3/ΔPpDCL4 double-mutant plants. Therefore, PpDCL3 activity, not loss of PpDCL4 function per se, is the cause of the ΔPpDCL4 phenotypes. Additionally, we describe several new Physcomitrella trans-acting siRNA loci, three of which belong to a new family, TAS6. TAS6 loci are typified by sliced miR156 and miR529 target sites and are in close proximity to PpTAS3 loci.

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