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PLOS ONE  2012 

Identification of Novel miRNAs and miRNA Dependent Developmental Shifts of Gene Expression in Arabidopsis thaliana

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010157

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microRNAs (miRNAs) are small, endogenous RNAs of 20~25 nucleotides, processed from stem-loop regions of longer RNA precursors. Plant miRNAs act as negative regulators of target mRNAs predominately by slicing target transcripts, and a number of miRNAs play important roles in development. We analyzed a number of published datasets from Arabidopsis thaliana to characterize novel miRNAs, novel miRNA targets, and miRNA-regulated developmental changes in gene expression. These data include microarray profiling data and small RNA (sRNA) deep sequencing data derived from miRNA biogenesis/transport mutants, microarray profiling data of mRNAs in a developmental series, and computational predictions of conserved genomic stem-loop structures. Our conservative analyses identified five novel mature miRNAs and seven miRNA targets, including one novel target gene. Two complementary miRNAs that target distinct mRNAs were encoded by one gene. We found that genes targeted by known miRNAs, and genes up-regulated or down-regulated in miRNA mutant inflorescences, are highly expressed in the wild type inflorescence. In addition, transcripts upregulated within the mutant inflorescences were abundant in wild type leaves and shoot meristems and low in pollen and seed. Downregulated transcripts were abundant in wild type pollen and seed and low in shoot meristems, roots and leaves. Thus, disrupting miRNA function causes the inflorescence transcriptome to resemble the leaf and meristem and to differ from pollen and seed. Applications of our computational approach to other species and the use of more liberal criteria than reported here will further expand the number of identified miRNAs and miRNA targets. Our findings suggest that miRNAs have a global role in promoting vegetative to reproductive transitions in A. thaliana.


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