• Tao Y, Wei L, Zheng Y, Zou X, Zhang Z. (2008) Submergence-responsive MicroRNAs are Potentially Involved in the Regulation of Morphological and Metabolic Adaptations in Maize Root Cells. Ann Bot 102(4), 509-19.


Anaerobic or low oxygen conditions occur when maize plants are submerged or subjected to flooding of the soil. Maize survival under low oxygen conditions is largely dependent on metabolic, physiological and morphological adaptation strategies; the regulation mechanisms of which remain unknown. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play critical roles in the response to adverse biotic or abiotic stresses at the post-transcriptional level. The aim of this study was to understand submergence-responsive miRNAs and their potential roles in submerged maize roots.

A custom muParaflo microfluidic array containing plant miRNA (miRBase: http://microrna.sanger.ac.uk) probes was used to explore differentially expressed miRNAs. Small RNAs from treated roots were hybridized with the microarray. The targets and their cis-acting elements of small RNA were predicted and analysed by RT-PCR.

Microarray data revealed that the expression levels of 39 miRNAs from nine maize and some other plant miRNA families were significantly altered (P < 0.01). Four expression profiles were identified across different submergence time-points. The zma-miRNA166, zma-miRNA167, zma-miRNA171 and osa-miRNA396-like were induced in the early phase, and their target genes were predicted to encode important transcription factors, including; HD-ZIP, auxin response factor, SCL and the WRKY domain protein. zma-miR159, ath-miR395-like, ptc-miR474-like and osa-miR528-like were reduced at the early submergence phase and induced after 24 h of submergence. The predicted targets for these miRNAs were involved in carbohydrate and energy metabolism, including starch synthase, invertase, malic enzyme and ATPase. In addition, many of the predicted targets were involved in the elimination of reactive oxygen species and acetaldehyde. Overall, most of the targets of induced miRNAs contained the cis-acting element, which is essential for the anaerobic response or hormone induction.

Submergence-responsive miRNAs are involved in the regulation of metabolic, physiological and morphological adaptations of maize roots at the post-transcriptional level.

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