MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are multifunctional non-coding short nucleotide molecules. Nevertheless, the role of miRNAs in the interactions between plants and necrotrophic pathogens is largely unknown. Here, we report the identification of the miRNA repertoire of the economically important oil crop oilseed rape (Brassica napus) and those involved in interacting with its most devastating necrotrophic pathogen Sclerotinia sclerotiorum. We identified 280 B. napus miRNA candidates, including 53 novel candidates and 227 canonical members or variants of known miRNA families, by high-throughput deep sequencing of small RNAs from both normal and S. sclerotiorum-inoculated leaves. Target genes of 15 novel candidates and 222 known miRNAs were further identified by sequencing of degradomes from the two types of samples. MiRNA microarray analysis revealed that 68 miRNAs were differentially expressed between S. sclerotiorum-inoculated and uninoculated leaves. A set of these miRNAs target genes involved in plant defense to S. sclerotiorum and/or other pathogens such as nucleotide binding site-leucine-rich repeat (NBS-LRR) R genes and nitric oxygen and reactive oxygen species related genes. Additionally, three miRNAs target AGO1 and AGO2, key components of post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS). Expression of several viral PTGS suppressors reduced resistance to S. sclerotiorum. Arabidopsis mutants of AGO1 and AGO2 exhibited reduced resistance while transgenic lines over-expressing AGO1 displayed increased resistance to S. sclerotiorum in an AGO1 expression level-dependent manner. Moreover, transient over-expression of miRNAs targeting AGO1 and AGO2 decreased resistance to S. sclerotiorum in oilseed rape. Our results demonstrate that the interactions between B. napus and S. sclerotiorum are tightly regulated at miRNA level and probably involve PTGS.
Plant Molecular Biology – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 20, 2016
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