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Planta. 2012 Feb;235(2):375-86. doi: 10.1007/s00425-011-1514-9. Epub 2011 Sep 10.

Identification of aluminum-responsive microRNAs in Medicago truncatula by genome-wide high-throughput sequencing.

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State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change, Institute of Botany, The Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100093, People's Republic of China.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play important roles in response of plants to biotic and abiotic stresses. Aluminum (Al) toxicity is a major factor limiting plant growth in acidic soils. However, there has been limited report on the involvement of miRNAs in response of plants to toxic Al(3+). To identify Al(3+)-responsive miRNAs at whole-genome level, high-throughput sequencing technology was used to sequence libraries constructed from root apices of the model legume plant Medicago truncatula treated with and without Al(3+). High-throughput sequencing of the control and two Al(3+)-treated libraries led to generation of 17.1, 14.1 and 17.4 M primary reads, respectively. We identified 326 known miRNAs and 21 new miRNAs. Among the miRNAs, expression of 23 miRNAs was responsive to Al(3+), and the majority of Al(3+)-responsive mRNAs was down-regulated. We further classified the Al(3+)-responsive miRNAs into three groups based on their expression patterns: rapid-responsive, late-responsive and sustained-responsive miRNAs. The majority of Al(3+)-responsive miRNAs belonged to the 'rapid-responsive' category, i.e. they were responsive to short-term, but not long-term Al(3+) treatment. The Al(3+)-responsive miRNAs were also verified by quantitative real-time PCR. The potential targets of the 21 new miRNAs were predicted to be involved in diverse cellular processes in plants, and their potential roles in Al(3+)-induced inhibition of root growth were discussed. These findings provide valuable information for functional characterization of miRNAs in Al(3+) toxicity and tolerance.

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