Conservation and divergence of microRNAs and their functions in Euphorbiaceous plants

Nucleic Acids Res. 2010 Jan;38(3):981-95. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkp1035. Epub 2009 Nov 26.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are approximately 21 nt non-coding RNAs which regulate post-transcriptional gene expression. miRNAs are key regulators of nearly all essential biological processes. Aiming at understanding miRNA's functions in Euphorbiaceae, a large flowering plant family, we performed a genome-scale systematic study of miRNAs in Euphorbiaceae, by combining computational prediction and experimental analysis to overcome the difficulty of lack of genomes for most Euphorbiaceous species. Specifically, we predicted 85 conserved miRNAs in 23 families in the Castor bean (Ricinus communis), and experimentally verified and characterized 58 (68.2%) of the 85 miRNAs in at least one of four Euphorbiaceous species, the Castor bean, the Cassava (Manihot esculenta), the Rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) and the Jatropha (Jatropha curcas) during normal seedling development. To elucidate their function in stress response, we verified and profiled 48 (56.5%) of the 85 miRNAs under cold and drought stresses as well as during the processes of stress recovery. The results revealed some species- and condition-specific miRNA expression patterns. Finally, we predicted 258 miRNA:target partners, and identified the cleavage sites of six out of ten miRNA targets by a modified 5' RACE. This study produced the first collection of miRNAs and their targets in Euphorbiaceae. Our results revealed wide conservation of many miRNAs and diverse functions in Euphorbiaceous plants during seedling growth and in response to abiotic stresses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Castor Bean / genetics
  • Castor Bean / growth & development
  • Castor Bean / metabolism
  • Cold Temperature
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Droughts
  • Euphorbiaceae / genetics*
  • Euphorbiaceae / growth & development
  • Euphorbiaceae / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant*
  • Hevea / genetics
  • Hevea / growth & development
  • Hevea / metabolism
  • Jatropha / genetics
  • Jatropha / growth & development
  • Jatropha / metabolism
  • Manihot / genetics
  • Manihot / growth & development
  • Manihot / metabolism
  • MicroRNAs / chemistry
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / chemistry
  • Seedlings / genetics
  • Seedlings / growth & development
  • Seedlings / metabolism
  • Stress, Physiological / genetics


  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Messenger