The use of high-through put small RNA sequencing reveals differentially expressed microRNAs in response to aster yellows phytoplasma-infection in Vitis vinifera cv. Chardonnay

Snyman, Marius C. ; Solofoharivelo, Marie-Chrystine ; Souza-Richards, Rose ; Stephan, Dirk ; Murray, Shane ; Burger, Johan T. (2017)

CITATION: Snyman, M. C., et al. 2017. The use of high-through put small RNA sequencing reveals differentially expressed microRNAs in response to aster yellows phytoplasma-infection in Vitis vinifera cv. Chardonnay. PLoS ONE, 12(8):e0182629, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0182629.

The original publication is available at http://journals.plos.org/plosone

Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund.

Article

Phytoplasmas are cell wall-less plant pathogenic bacteria responsible for major crop losses throughout the world. In grapevine they cause grapevine yellows, a detrimental disease associated with a variety of symptoms. The high economic impact of this disease has sparked considerable interest among researchers to understand molecular mechanisms related to pathogenesis. Increasing evidence exist that a class of small non-coding endogenous RNAs, known as microRNAs (miRNAs), play an important role in post-transcriptional gene regulation during plant development and responses to biotic and abiotic stresses. Thus, we aimed to dissect complex high-throughput small RNA sequencing data for the genome-wide identification of known and novel differentially expressed miRNAs, using read libraries constructed from healthy and phytoplasma-infected Chardonnay leaf material. Furthermore, we utilised computational resources to predict putative miRNA targets to explore the involvement of possible pathogen response pathways. We identified multiple known miRNA sequence variants (isomiRs), likely generated through post-transcriptional modifications. Sequences of 13 known, canonical miRNAs were shown to be differentially expressed. A total of 175 novel miRNA precursor sequences, each derived from a unique genomic location, were predicted, of which 23 were differentially expressed. A homology search revealed that some of these novel miRNAs shared high sequence similarity with conserved miRNAs from other plant species, as well as known grapevine miRNAs. The relative expression of randomly selected known and novel miRNAs was determined with real-time RT-qPCR analysis, thereby validating the trend of expression seen in the normalised small RNA sequencing read count data. Among the putative miRNA targets, we identified genes involved in plant morphology, hormone signalling, nutrient homeostasis, as well as plant stress. Our results may assist in understanding the role that miRNA pathways play during plant pathogenesis, and may be crucial in understanding disease symptom development in aster yellows phytoplasma-infected grapevines.

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