Cloning and characterization of micro-RNAs from moss


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Micro-RNAs (miRNAs) are one class of endogenous tiny RNAs that play important regulatory roles in plant development and responses to external stimuli. To date, miRNAs have been cloned from higher plants such as Arabidopsis, rice and pumpkin, and there is limited information on their identity in lower plants including Bryophytes. Bryophytes are among the oldest groups of land plants among the earth's flora, and are important for our understanding of the transition to life on land. To identify miRNAs that might have played a role early in land plant evolution, we constructed a library of small RNAs from the juvenile gametophyte (protonema) of the moss Physcomitrella patens. Sequence analysis revealed five higher plant miRNA homologues, including three members of the miR319 family, previously shown to be involved in the regulation of leaf morphogenesis, and miR156, which has been suggested to regulate several members of the SQUAMOSA PROMOTER BINDING-LIKE (SPL) family in Arabidopsis. We have cloned PpSBP3, a moss SPL homologue that contains an miR156 complementary site, and demonstrated that its mRNA is cleaved within that site suggesting that it is an miR156 target in moss. Six additional candidate moss miRNAs were identified and shown to be expressed in the gametophyte, some of which were developmentally regulated or upregulated by auxin. Our observations suggest that miRNAs play important regulatory roles in mosses.