Suppression of microRNA159 impacts multiple agronomic traits in rice (Oryza sativa L.)

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© 2017 The Author(s). Background: microRNAs (miRNAs) are important regulators in plant growth and development. miR159 is a conserved miRNA among different plant species and has various functions in plants. Studies on miR159 are mostly done on model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana. In rice, studies on miR159 were either based upon genome-wide expression analyses focused upon responses to different nitrogen forms and abiotic stress or upon phenotypic studies of transgenic plants overexpressing its precursor. STTM (Short Tandem Target Mimic) is an effective tool to block the activity of endogenous mature miRNA activity in plant. Therefore, specific roles of miR159 in rice could be explored by down regulating miR159 through STTM. Results: In this study, expression of mature miR159 was successfully suppressed by STTM which resulted in the increased expressions of its two targets genes, OsGAMYB and OsGAMYBL1 (GAMYB-LIKE 1). Overall, STTM159 plants exhibited short stature along with smaller organ size and reduction in stem diameter, length of flag leaf, main panicle, spikelet hulls and grain size. Histological analysis of stem, leaf and mature spikelet hull showed the reduced number of small vascular bundles (SVB), less number of small veins (SV) between two big veins (LV) and less cell number in outer parenchyma. Gene Ontology (GO) enrichment analysis of differentially expressed genes between wild type plants and STTM159 transgenic plants showed that genes involved in cell division, auxin, cytokinin (CK) and brassinosteroids (BRs) biosynthesis and signaling are significantly down-regulated in STTM159 plants. Conclusion: Our data suggests that in rice, miR159 positively regulates organ size, including stem, leaf, and grain size due to the promotion of cell division. Further analysis from the RNA-seq data showed that the decreased cell divisions in STTM159 transgenic plants may result, at least partly from the lower expression of the genes involved in cell cycle and hormone homeostasis, which provides new insights of rice miR159-specific functions.

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BMC Plant Biology