Deep Sequencing Discovery of Novel and Conserved MicroRNAs in Trifoliate Orange (Citrus trifoliata)
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Background MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play a critical role in post-transcriptional gene regulation and have been shown to control many genes involved in various biological and metabolic processes. There have been extensive studies to discover miRNAs and analyze their functions in model plant species, such as Arabidopsis and rice. Deep sequencing technologies have facilitated identification of species-specific or lowly expressed as well as conserved or highly expressed miRNAs in plants. Results In this research, we used Solexa sequencing to discover new microRNAs in trifoliate orange (Citrus trifoliata) which is an important rootstock of citrus. A total of 13,106,753 reads representing 4,876,395 distinct sequences were obtained from a short RNA library generated from small RNA extracted from C. trifoliata flower and fruit tissues. Based on sequence similarity and hairpin structure prediction, we found that 156,639 reads representing 63 sequences from 42 highly conserved miRNA families, have perfect matches to known miRNAs. We also identified 10 novel miRNA candidates whose precursors were all potentially generated from citrus ESTs. In addition, five miRNA* sequences were also sequenced. These sequences had not been earlier described in other plant species and accumulation of the 10 novel miRNAs were confirmed by qRT-PCR analysis. Potential target genes were predicted for most conserved and novel miRNAs. Moreover, four target genes including one encoding IRX12 copper ion binding/oxidoreductase and three genes encoding NB-LRR disease resistance protein have been experimentally verified by detection of the miRNA-mediated mRNA cleavage in C. trifoliata. Conclusion Deep sequencing of short RNAs from C. trifoliata flowers and fruits identified 10 new potential miRNAs and 42 highly conserved miRNA families, indicating that specific miRNAs exist in C. trifoliata. These results show that regulatory miRNAs exist in agronomically important trifoliate orange and may play an important role in citrus growth, development, and response to disease.