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Department of Biological Sciences


MicroRNAs are important regulators in plant developmental processes and stress responses. In this study, we generated a series of maize STTM166 transgenic plants. Knock-down of miR166 resulted in various morphological changes, including rolled leaves, enhanced abiotic stress resistance, inferior yield-related traits, vascular pattern and epidermis structures, tassel architecture, as well as abscisic acid (ABA) level elevation and indole acetic acid (IAA) level reduction in maize. To profile miR166 regulated genes, we performed RNA-seq and qRT-PCR analysis. A total of 178 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were identified, including 118 up-regulated and 60 down-regulated genes. These DEGs were strongly enriched in cell and intercellular components, cell membrane system components, oxidoreductase activity, single organism metabolic process, carbohydrate metabolic process, and oxidation reduction process. These results indicated that miR166 plays important roles in auxin and ABA interaction in monocots, yet the specific mechanism may differ from dicots. The enhanced abiotic stress resistance is partly caused via rolling leaves, high ABA content, modulated vascular structure, and the potential changes of cell membrane structure. The inferior yield-related traits and late flowering are partly controlled by the decreased IAA content, the interplay of miR166 with other miRNAs and AGOs. Taken together, the present study uncovered novel functions of miR166 in maize, and provide insights on applying short tandem target mimics (STTM) technology in plant breeding.

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© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( Publisher’s version of record:

Publication Title

International Journal of Molecular Sciences

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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