A Resource for Inactivation of MicroRNAs Using Short Tandem Target Mimic Technology in Model and Crop Plants

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© 2018 The Author microRNAs (miRNAs) are endogenous small non-coding RNAs that bind to mRNAs and target them for cleavage and/or translational repression, leading to gene silencing. We previously developed short tandem target mimic (STTM) technology to deactivate endogenous miRNAs in Arabidopsis. Here, we created hundreds of STTMs that target both conserved and species-specific miRNAs in Arabidopsis, tomato, rice, and maize, providing a resource for the functional interrogation of miRNAs. We not only revealed the functions of several miRNAs in plant development, but also demonstrated that tissue-specific inactivation of a few miRNAs in rice leads to an increase in grain size without adversely affecting overall plant growth and development. RNA-seq and small RNA-seq analyses of STTM156/157 and STTM165/166 transgenic plants revealed the roles of these miRNAs in plant hormone biosynthesis and activation, secondary metabolism, and ion-channel activity-associated electrophysiology, demonstrating that STTM technology is an effective approach for studying miRNA functions. To facilitate the study and application of STTM transgenic plants and to provide a useful platform for storing and sharing of information about miRNA-regulated gene networks, we have established an online Genome Browser (https://blossom.ffr.mtu.edu/designindex2.php) to display the transcriptomic and miRNAomic changes in STTM-induced miRNA knockdown plants. This study reports the creation of a resource of hundreds of STTMs (plasmids and transgenic plants) that target multiple miRNAs in model and crop species for their functional characterization. Study of the spatial and temporal functions of miRNAs, their targets, and their interactions with other miRNA-regulated gene networks revealed the importance and applications of this resource.

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Molecular Plant