The degradation of fungal microRNAs triggered by Short Tandem Target Mimic (STTM) is via the small RNA degrading nuclease

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MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have been recognized as sequence-specific regulators of the genome, transcriptome, and proteome in eukaryotes. However, functions and working mechanisms of hundreds of fungal miRNA-like (miR-like) RNAs are obscure. Here, we report that a short tandem target mimic (STTM) triggered the degradation of several fungal miR-like RNAs in two different fungal species, Metarhizium robertsii and Aspergillus flavus, and that small RNA degrading nucleases (SDNs) were indispensable for such degradation. STTMs were most effective when the fungal pol-II promoter was used for their expression, while the pol-III promoter was less effective. The length of the STTM spacer, approximately 48 to 96 nucleotides, and the number of miR-like RNA binding sites, from 2 to 4 copies, had no significant difference in the degradation of miR-like RNAs. STTMs modulated the miR-like RNA expression levels in at least two different fungal species, which further impacted fungal asexual growth and sporulation. Further analysis showed that the degraded miR-like RNAs in STTM mutants leaded to the up-regulation of potential target genes involving in the fungal development and conidial production, which result in different phenotypes in these mutants. The STTM technology developed in this study is an effective and powerful tool for the functional dissection of fungal miR-like RNAs.

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© 2019 American Society for Microbiology. Publisher's version of record: https://doi.org/10.1128/AEM.03132-18

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Applied and Environmental Microbiology