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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Albany, California » Plant Gene Expression Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #366333

Research Project: Conserved Genes and Signaling Networks that Control Environmental Responses of C4 Grain Crops

Location: Plant Gene Expression Center

Title: MicroRNAs and new biotechnological tools for its modulation and improving stress tolerance in plants

item BASSO, MARCO - Embrapa Genetic Resources
item FERREIRA, PAULO - Universidade Federal Do Rio De Janeiro
item Harmon, Frank
item MOLINARI, HUGO - Embrapa
item GROSSI-DE-SA, MARIA - Embrapa Genetic Resources

Submitted to: Plant Biotechnology Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/17/2019
Publication Date: 4/4/2019
Citation: Basso, M.F., Ferreira, P.G., Kobayashi, A.K., Harmon, F.G., Nepomuceno, A.L., Molinari, H.C., Grossi-de-Sa, M.F. 2019. MicroRNAs and new biotechnological tools for its modulation and improving stress tolerance in plants. Plant Biotechnology Journal. 17(8):1482-1500.

Interpretive Summary: Messenger RNA (mRNA) is the product of gene expression and mRNA abundance influences the number of active proteins. Therefore, regulation of mRNA levels is a key mechanism for control of several plant processes. A major mechanism controlling where and to what levels mRNA accumulate employs the production of microRNAs (miRNAs). miRNAs are the products of genes that themselves are regulated by transcriptional mechanisms. This article describes how genes for miRNAs are regulated with an emphasis on how new cutting edge biotechnology approaches can be used to exploit miRNA regulatory mechanisms for the improvement of abiotic and biotic stress tolerance in crops of economic importance.

Technical Abstract: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) modulate the abundance and spatial–temporal accumulation of target mRNAs and indirectly regulate several plant processes. Transcriptional regulation of the genes encoding miRNAs (MIR genes) can be activated by numerous transcription factors, which themselves are regulated by other miRNAs. Fine-tuning of MIR genes or miRNAs is a powerful biotechnological strategy to improve tolerance to abiotic or biotic stresses in crops of economic importance. Current approaches for miRNA fine-tuning are based on the down- or up-regulation of MIR gene transcription and the use of genetic engineering tools to manipulate the final concentration of these miRNAs in the cytoplasm. Transgenesis, cisgenesis, intragenesis, artificial MIR genes, endogenous and artificial target mimicry, MIR genes editing using Meganucleases, ZNF proteins, TALENs and CRISPR/Cas9 or CRISPR/Cpf1, CRISPR/dCas9 or dCpf1, CRISPR13a, topical delivery of miRNAs and epigenetic memory have been successfully explored to MIR gene or miRNA modulation and improve agronomic traits in several model or crop plants. However, advantages and drawbacks of each of these new biotechnological tools (NBTs) are still not well understood. In this review, we provide a brief overview of the biogenesis and role of miRNAs in response to abiotic or biotic stresses, we present critically the main NBTs used for the manipulation of MIR genes and miRNAs, we show current efforts and findings with the MIR genes and miRNAs modulation in plants, and we summarize the advantages and drawbacks of these NBTs and provide some alternatives to overcome. Finally, challenges and future perspectives to miRNA modulating in important crops are also discussed.