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microRNAs differentially modulated in response to heat and drought stress in durum wheat cultivars with contrasting water use efficiency

Giusti, Lorenzo, Mica, Erica, Bertolini, Edoardo, De Leonardis, Anna Maria, Faccioli, Primetta, Cattivelli, Luigi, Crosatti, Cristina
Functional & integrative genomics 2017 v.17 no.2-3 pp. 293-309
cultivars, durum wheat, gene expression regulation, genes, heat, heat stress, leaves, microRNA, organogenesis, plant development, plant response, plant stress, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, stomatal conductance, stomatal movement, stress response, transcription (genetics), water stress, water use efficiency
Plant stress response is a complex molecular process based on transcriptional and posttranscriptional regulation of many stress-related genes. microRNAs are the best-studied class of small RNAs known to play key regulatory roles in plant response to stress, besides being involved in plant development and organogenesis. We analyzed the leaf miRNAome of two durum wheat cultivars (Cappelli and Ofanto) characterized by a contrasting water use efficiency, exposed to heat stress, and mild and severe drought stress. On the whole, we identified 98 miRNA highly similar to previously known miRNAs and grouped in 47 MIR families, as well as 85 novel candidate miRNA, putatively wheat specific. A total of 80 known and novel miRNA precursors were found differentially expressed between the two cultivars or modulated by stress and many of them showed a cultivar-specific expression profile. Interestingly, most in silico predicted targets of the miRNAs coming from the differentially expressed precursors have been experimentally linked in other species to mechanisms controlling stomatal movement, a finding in agreement with previous results showing that Cappelli has a lower stomatal conductance than Ofanto. Selected miRNAs were validated through a standardized and reliable stem-loop qRT-PCR procedure.