Ectopic expression of miR156 represses nodulation and causes morphological and developmental changes in Lotus japonicus.

Wang, Y., Wang, Z., Amyot, L., Tian, L.-N., Xu, Z., Gruber, M.Y., and Hannoufa, A. (2015). "Ectopic expression of miR156 represses nodulation and causes morphological and developmental changes in Lotus japonicus.", Molecular Genetics and Genomics, 290(2), pp. 471-484. doi : 10.1007/s00438-014-0931-4  Access to full text

Abstract

The effects of microRNA156 overexpression on general plant architecture, branching, flowering time and nodulation were investigated in the model legume, Lotus japonicus. We cloned an miR156 homolog, LjmiR156a, from L. japonicus, and investigated its SQUAMOSA PROMOTER BINDING PROTEIN LIKE (SPL) genes and its biological function at enhancing vegetative biomass yield, extending flowering time, and its impact on nodulation. Thirteen potential targets for LjmiR156 were identified in vitro and their expression profiles were determined in aerial and underground parts of mature plants, including genes coding for eight SPLs, one WD-40, one RNA-directed DNA polymerase, two transport proteins, and one histidine-phosphotransfer protein. Two SPL and one WD-40 cleavage targets for LjmiR156—TC70253, AU089191, and TC57859—were identified. Transgenic plants with ectopic expression of LjmiR156a showed enhanced branching, dramatically delayed flowering, underdeveloped roots, and reduced nodulation. We also examined the transcript levels of key genes involved in nodule organogenesis and infection thread formation to determine the role of miR156 in regulating symbiosis. Overexpression of LjmiR156a led to repression of several nodulation genes during the early stages of root development such as three ENOD genes, SymPK, POLLUX, CYCLOPS, Cerberus, and Nsp1, and the stimulation of NFR1. Our results show that miR156 regulates vegetative biomass yield, flowering time and nodulation by silencing downstream target SPLs and other genes, suggesting that the miR156 regulatory network could be modified in forage legumes (such as alfalfa and trefoils) and in leafy vegetables (like lettuce and spinach) to positively impact economically valuable crop species.

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