MicroRNAs and their mega effects on gene expression in response to leaf rust in wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)
Bread wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) being the world's most popular edible cereal, plays a major role in global economy. Rust in wheat leaves, caused by Puccinia triticina, affects grain quality and severely retards its production worldwide. Micro(mi)RNAs are considered major components of gene silencing and so have a great role to play during stress. The present study focuses on identification of miRNAs, produced by host to suppress pathogen as well as delivered by pathogens to encounter host defence mechanism. Therefore, these miRNAs may be called as leaf rust responsive microRNAs. Small RNA and degradome libraries were prepared from a pair of near isogenic lines of wheat (HD2329, HD2329+Lr24), one set was mock inoculated while the other set was inoculated with urediniospores of leaf rust pathogen. Using these libraries as input a vast number of miRNAs rather a population of miRNAs were identified derived from wheat that were targeting genes mostly involved in functions like defense response, signal transduction, development, metabolism, and transcriptional regulation.
When reads specifically produced under pathogen inoculation were taken as input with Puccinia triticina genome sequences as reference, only three putative miRNA precursor loci were detected and the molecules produced were called miRNA-like molecules as their precursors lacked one or two criteria essential for a true miRNA precursor. The identified miRNAs were targeting genes like F-box protein, MAP kinase, calmodulin and susceptible antioxidant protein. We further identified the presence of argonaute and dicer like domains in Puccinia proteome available at FungiEnsembl which strengthens presence of RNAi-like activities in Puccinia.
In addition, differential expression of wheat as well as Puccinia small RNAs using stem loop RT-PCR under varying time points of disease progression (0-168 hpi) revealed their direct connection with stress responses.