Profiling the abiotic stress responsive microrna landscape of Arabidopsis thaliana

Pegler JL, Grof CPL and Eamens AL

Centre for Plant Science, School of Environmental and Life Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Newcastle, Callaghan 2308, New South Wales, Australia.

It is well established among interdisciplinary academics contemporary society is challenged with addressing and mitigating the negative consequences that accompany anthropogenic driven climate change. One such negative impact is the increased prevalence (duration and severity) of increasingly unfavourable environmental conditions such as (but not limited to) elevated temperature, drought and salinity: environmental conditions that are well documented to significantly contribute to a reduction in global agricultural crop yield. Confronted with the challenge of providing food security for 9.5 billion people by the year 2050, modern molecular agricultural biology aims to address this issue with the development of superior crop varieties, that is, genetically modifying key global food crops to harbour molecular modifications that result in the ability of the modified cropping species to maintain yield during times abiotic stress. In plants, microRNAs are central regulators of gene expression to; (1) influence all aspects of development; (2) mount a defence response against invading pathogens, and; (3) direct many of the physiological and/or phenotypical changes required by a plant to respond to abiotic stress. Via a high-throughput sequencing approach, the microRNA landscape of wild-type Arabidopsis thaliana exposed to salt, drought or heat stress, was profiled. This explorative analysis identified large microRNA cohorts responsive to each assessed stress. microRNA profiles are currently being experimentally validated via a modified reverse transcriptase quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) approach. Concurrently, a standard RT-qPCR approach is being applied to quantify the expression of target genes of microRNAs experimentally validated to be abiotic stress responsive.