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Plant Physiol. 2013 Jul;162(3):1225-45. doi: 10.1104/pp.113.219873. Epub 2013 May 24.

Comprehensive investigation of microRNAs enhanced by analysis of sequence variants, expression patterns, ARGONAUTE loading, and target cleavage.

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Delaware Biotechnology Institute, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware 19711, USA.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of small RNAs that typically function by guiding the cleavage of target messenger RNAs. They have been shown to play major roles in a variety of plant processes, including development, and responses to pathogens and environmental stresses. To identify new miRNAs and regulation in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana), 27 small RNA libraries were constructed and sequenced from various tissues, stresses, and small RNA biogenesis mutants, resulting in 95 million genome-matched sequences. The use of rdr2 to enrich the miRNA population greatly enhanced this analysis and led to the discovery of new miRNAs arising from both known and new precursors, increasing the total number of Arabidopsis miRNAs by about 10%. Parallel Analysis of RNA Ends data provide evidence that the majority guide target cleavage. Many libraries represented novel stress/tissue conditions, such as submergence-stressed flowers, which enabled the identification of new stress regulation of both miRNAs and their targets, all of which were validated in wild-type plants. By combining small RNA expression analysis with ARGONAUTE immunoprecipitation data and global target cleavage data from Parallel Analysis of RNA Ends, a much more complete picture of Arabidopsis miRNAs was obtained. In particular, the discovery of ARGONAUTE loading and target cleavage biases gave important insights into tissue-specific expression patterns, pathogen responses, and the role of sequence variation among closely related miRNA family members that would not be evident without this combinatorial approach.

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