Genome-wide analysis of brassinosteroid responsive small RNAs in Arabidopsis thaliana

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© 2020, The Genetics Society of Korea. Background: Brassinosteroids (BRs) are a class of phytohormones with important roles in regulating physiological and developmental processes. Small RNAs, including small interfering RNAs and microRNAs (miRNAs), are non-protein coding RNAs that regulate gene expression at the transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels. However, the roles of small RNAs in BR response have not been studied well. Objective: In this study, we aimed to identify BR-responsive small RNA clusters and miRNAs in Arabidopsis. In addition, the effect of BR-responsive small RNAs on their transcripts and target genes were examined. Methods: Small RNA libraries were constructed from control and epibrassinolide-treated seedlings expressing wild-type BRI1-Flag protein under its native promoter in the bri1-5 mutant. After sequencing the small RNA libraries, differentially expressed small RNA clusters were identified by examining the expression levels of small RNAs in 100-nt bins of the Arabidopsis genome. To identify the BR-responsive miRNAs, the expression levels of all the annotated mature miRNAs, registered in miRBase, were analyzed. Previously published RNA-seq data were utilized to monitor the BR-responsive expression patterns of differentially expressed small RNA clusters and miRNA target genes. Results: In results, 38 BR-responsive small RNA clusters, including 30 down-regulated and eight up-regulated clusters, were identified. These differentially expressed small RNA clusters were from miRNA loci, transposons, protein-coding genes, pseudogenes and others. Of these, a transgene, BRI1, accumulates small RNAs, which are not found in the wild type. Small RNAs in this transgene are up-regulated by BRs while BRI1 mRNA is down-regulated by BRs. By analyzing the expression patterns of mature miRNAs, we have identified BR-repressed miR398a-5p and BR-induced miR156g. Although miR398a-5p is down-regulated by BRs, its predicted targets were not responsive to BRs. However, SPL3, a target of BR-inducible miR156g, is down-regulated by BRs. Conclusion: BR-responsive small RNAs and miRNAs identified in this study will provide an insight into the role of small RNAs in BR responses in plants. Especially, we suggest that miR156g/SPL3 module might play a role in BR-mediated growth and development in Arabidopsis.

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Genes and Genomics

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