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Tiwari, Bhavika; Habermann, Kristin; Arif, Muhammad Asif; Weil, Heinrich Lukas; Garcia-Molina, Antoni; Kleine, Tatjana; Mühlhaus, Timo and Frank, Wolfgang (2020): Identification of small RNAs during cold acclimation in Arabidopsis thaliana. In: BMC Plant Biology 20:298 [PDF, 4MB]


Background: Cold stress causes dynamic changes in gene expression that are partially caused by small non-coding RNAs since they regulate protein coding transcripts and act in epigenetic gene silencing pathways. Thus, a detailed analysis of transcriptional changes of small RNAs (sRNAs) belonging to all known sRNA classes such as microRNAs (miRNA) and small interfering RNA (siRNAs) in response to cold contributes to an understanding of cold-related transcriptome changes.

Result: We subjected A. thaliana plants to cold acclimation conditions (4 °C) and analyzed the sRNA transcriptomes after 3 h, 6 h and 2 d. We found 93 cold responsive differentially expressed miRNAs and only 14 of these were previously shown to be cold responsive. We performed miRNA target prediction for all differentially expressed miRNAs and a GO analysis revealed the overrepresentation of miRNA-targeted transcripts that code for proteins acting in transcriptional regulation. We also identified a large number of differentially expressed cis- and trans-nat-siRNAs, as well as sRNAs that are derived from long non-coding RNAs. By combining the results of sRNA and mRNA profiling with miRNA target predictions and publicly available information on transcription factors, we reconstructed a cold-specific, miRNA and transcription factor dependent gene regulatory network. We verified the validity of links in the network by testing its ability to predict target gene expression under cold acclimation.

Conclusion: In A. thaliana, miRNAs and sRNAs derived from cis- and trans-NAT gene pairs and sRNAs derived from lncRNAs play an important role in regulating gene expression in cold acclimation conditions. This study provides a fundamental database to deepen our knowledge and understanding of regulatory networks in cold acclimation.

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