Recent studies have revealed that microRNAs (miRNAs) regulate plant adaptive responses to nutrient deprivation. However, the functional significance of miRNAs in adaptive responses to nitrogen (N) limitation remains to be explored. The Arabidopsis miR169 was strongly down-regulated, whereas its targets, NFYA (Nuclear Factor Y, subunit A) family members, were strongly induced by nitrogen N starvation. Analysis of the expression of miR169 precursors showed that MIR169a was substantially down-regulated in both roots and shoots by N starvation. Accumulation of the NFYA family members was suppressed in transgenic Arabidopsis with constitutive expression of MIR169a. Transgenic Arabidopsis plants overexpressing MIR169a accumulated less N and were more sensitive to N stress than the wild type. N sensitivity of 35S::MIR169a might be attributable to impaired uptake systems. These results provide evidence that miRNAs have functional roles in helping plants to cope with fluctuations in N availability in the soil.
© 2011 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2011 New Phytologist Trust.